Primary Causes of Obesity in Studies

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Obesity has become an extremely prevalent issue in our society and can be extremely controversial. Many people believe that obesity is something that is easy to control and has more to do with personal neglect than external circumstances.

However, this paper will explain why genetic predisposition and a toxic environment have more to do with people being obese than one’s self control. This paper will look at the areas of mental health and the roles of technology on obesity.

I chose this topic because I used to believe obesity had more to do with lack of one’s self control than anything else. However, after doing extensive research on the topic, I have come to find out that this worldwide phenomenon is much less easy to control than one might think.

Mental Health

Mental illness has become a very common issue among Americans in today’s society, the following study dives deeper into why issues with mental stability may be correlated to obesity and obesity related diseases.

This study is looking specifically at Borderline personality disorder (BPD) and how it is associate with several bad physical health outcomes such as an increased risk in diabetes, heart disease, and joint related issues. According to the American Psychological Association (2000), BPD is characterized as pervasive instability in emotion regulation, interpersonal relationships, impulse control, and self-image.

While there have been several studies previously done in regard to looking at the association between this particular mental disorder and obesity, no prior studies have looked specifically at the association between BPD and one’s body mass index (BMI). The goal of this particular study done by Powers & Oltmanns (2013), was to take a look at how features of borderline personality disorder effect one’s physical health condition.
The methods of the study are as follows, a representative sample size of a community of adults ages 55-64 was used to be participants in the study. Of all the participants, sixty-four percent of them were Caucasian and about fifty-three percent were females. Approximately half of the sample size were in a committed relationship or married. In terms of education and socioeconomic status, fifty-four percent of participants had a bachelors degree or higher and made between $60,000 and $79,000 a year.

The personality disorder features of the individuals were assessed by three different sources, the first being a trained interviewer, the second was the participants themselves, and lastly an informant that was chosen by the participant. After participants were assessed of the mental condition, they were analyzed based on their overall physical health conditions.

The results of the study support the tested hypothesis of those suffer with personality disorders have a greater risk of becoming obese and dealing with physical health related issues. Of the participants that suffered from a personality disorder, 73% would be considered obese according to the body mass index chart while the remaining percentages were distributed amongst average and overweight numbers.

While the results of this study are staggering, there are some limitations. The first of which is that this study is the first of its kind to look at personality disorders and body mass index, so there is no data to reference prior to this study. Lastly, the sample size cannot be completely representative because of how unique each case of a personality disorder is.


Humans use all different forms of technology every day in order to make their lives easier. However, what some fail to realize it the direct correlation between use of technology and increased rates obesity. People have created a society where they drive to work or school, sit at their desks, and go home. For recreation and leisure, people play with their video game consoles and watch television.
The following study explains how the sedentary lifestyle people create for themselves has contributed to the international obesity epidemic. In a study done by LeBlanc et al. (2015) the researchers look to measure the correlation between screen time and obesity in households. For the sake of this study, the operational definition of sedentary is walking behaviors that require little energy expenditures, sitting or lying in reclined position, and doing activities such as reading, watching television or being on the computer.

The International Study of Childhood Obesity, Lifestyle and the Environment (ISCOLE) aimed to find and understand the relationships between lifestyle behaviors and obesity in a multinational, cross-sectional study of 10-year-old children. Data was collected in Canada between the time of September 2012, and May 2013. This study included 26 schools, from four different school boards: English Public, French Public, English Catholic, and French Catholic (LeBlanc et al, 2015).

The dependent variables for this study is an accelerometer, which measures the amount of activity one is doing and a self-report on the amount of screen time one was getting was also used. The accelerometers were worn by all of the participants for 24 hours of the day for seven consecutive days. The only time participants did not have to wear the device was when they were performing activities in water (e.g. swimming, bathing). The self-reported screen time data was calculated and determined by a lifestyle and diet questionnaire which asked how many hours one typically spent watching television, playing video games, or using the computer.

Responses were: 1 = I did not watch TV, 2 = Less than 1 hour, 3 = 1 hour, 4 = 2 hours, 5 = 3 hours, 6 = 4 hours, 7 = 5 or more hours (LeBlanc et al, 2015). The study explains that the correlations are likely a combination of behavioral characteristics and one’s living situation and environment. Behavioral characteristics were measured from a diet and lifestyle questionnaire which the participants how often they consumed a variety of 23 different food items on average each week.
Home Environment
This questionnaire was used in order to help identify participants health and eating patterns. To measure the participants home environment, a demographic and family questionnaire was taken. The results of the study were as follows, in total, 567 participants provided complete data and were included in analysis (LeBlanc et al, 2015). The majority of women in the study were found to be a normal to slightly above average weight. However, about 60% of the males that participated in the study were found to be overweight or obese.

Almost all participants 96%, reported having two or more televisions in their homes while the remaining 4% of participants had either one or no TV. The results of this study support the hypothesis of a positive correlation between technology usage and the likelihood of one being overweight or obese.


While both sides of the argument as to whether or not one’s environment has a greater effect on obesity than genetic predisposition and self-control are compelling, I believe there is a stronger case made for the idea of external factors. Like I had previously stated, prior to doing this paper and extensive research on the topic of obesity and its causes, I had thought self-control combined with poor genetics was the only reason obesity existed.

However, after doing extensive research of conducted studies, I found that there is significantly more data supporting the idea of one’s external world having the largest effect on obesity. In addition to mental health and the developing world of technology, there is an abundant number of articles explaining why one’s level of education, job, income, and family size have a huge effect on one’s likelihood of being obese, while finding data specifically supporting laziness and genetics was almost non-existent.

Jacob Gruberger


Leblanc, A. G., Broyles, S. T., Chaput, J., Leduc, G., Boyer, C., Borghese, M. M., & Tremblay, M. S. (2015). Correlates of objectively measured sedentary time and self-reported screen time in Canadian children. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity,12(1). doi:10.1186/s12966-015-0197-1

Powers, A. D., & Oltmanns, T. F. (2013). Borderline personality pathology and chronic health problems in later adulthood: The mediating role of obesity. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment,4(2), 152-159. doi:10.1037/a0028709

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