According to statistics, obesity is becoming widespread in the U.S. and other developed countries of the world and the process is accelerating. Experts now warn of the common trend in human health. They emphasize the threat detrimental to the wellbeing of the entire society. It is fascinating that the overweight issue is associated with the dynamics of the growth of the modern society. Apparently, in principle, the humanity is facing a new factor.
Obesity: disease or social curse?
In modern age, a connection between different areas of human life is undeniable. Political, economic, cultural and other spheres are hard to tell apart. Social life of a human is intimately linked with biological, physiological, physical and psychological features. Human health thus acquires a new content, including its relation to overall development trend of the society. Apart from the scientific side of the issue, we would like to address a process evident in the Western society.
According to information provided by Trust for America’s Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in 2012, 12 states of the U.S. had 30% of the population suffering from obesity (see Tim Carman. New analysis indicates America remains obese / “The Washington Post”, 13 August, 2012). In general, obesity has become America’s problem as some 35% of the population suffers from it. American experts attribute this to overall social-cultural, economic and healthcare situation in the country. Their conclusion is that problem of obesity is related with lifestyle. As social life deteriorates, the body starts to accumulate fat. This leads us to another point.
As the article published in the “New York Daily News” in 2012 implied, stress level in the country has grown by 30% in last 30 years (see Meghan Neal. Stress levels soar in America by up to 30% in 30 years /www.nydailynews.com, 16 June 2012). This is how David Spiegel, a psychiatrist at Stanford University of Medicine, puts it: “Economic pressures are greater, and it’s harder to turn off information, and it’s harder to buffer ourselves from the world” (see previous article).
2008 financial crisis serves as an example. Based on the statistics, cases of stress registered among men in the Western societies following the crisis have grown. In general however, women, youth and low income people are more vulnerable than the rest.
We must stress that similar situation is present in the European countries (see Население стран ЕС катастрофически толстеет / “Rate1”, 27 November 2011). According to the 2007 figures released by the “Eurostat” – the statistics agency of the European Commission, Great Britain obesity level stood at 23.9%, Malta – 21%, Latvia – 20.9%, Estonia – 20.5% (see previous source).
Obesity appears to be a common social problem of the Western societies. This provokes contemplation on the healthy nation concept because personal health goes beyond individual interests. Overweight people are more susceptible to heart failures, blood pressure issues, diabetes and psychological diseases (see Obesity. WHO Regional Office for Europe (WHO/Europe), www.euro.who.int).
Moreover, being overweight leads to laziness and reduction of personal performance, thus ebbing creativity potential of the human resources. Another problem has to do with a probability of a mass psychological stress in the society. In this context, there is a visible link between health of a nation and its development dynamics. Obviously, deterioration of health in the Western societies is related with the changing substance of social-political, economic and cultural processes. These conclusions provoke another question: what is the primary cause of obesity in the West and what the implications are? Finding answers to these questions can be difficult but it already embodies the element of recession in the Western societies.
Personal health and society: from prosperity to recession
A vivid example would be growing Islamophobia in the very West. And it’s the youth that gets permeated with this malice. Experts attribute it to social-political grievances, deteriorating wellbeing and ebbing trust in official ideology. With financial means depleting, the underprivileged search for someone to blame and easiest way seems to be targeting holders of different political, ideological, and religious views. Presence of psychological tension compels such citizens to join radical organizations – a decision that ultimately leads to the membership with the terrorist groups.
Terrorism only adds to the apprehension within the society. It is not accidental that some experts are already comparing obesity to terrorism (see Елена Клепикова. Ожирение угрожает США больше чем терроризм / “Русский базар”, Issue 43 (705), 22-20 October 2009). Perhaps it is being realized that personal health is ensured by the healthy society. Namely, deterioration of personal health matches the threat to nation’s security posed by terrorism. This in itself is a fascinating conclusion. Moral-ethical, psychological and physical conditions of an individual are more interconnected in the modern age of dynamic development of new technologies. Thus, a lifestyle defines both the health of an individual and the general social-cultural aura in the society. In this context, some ideas of the experts appear intriguing.
According to Western experts, obesity is related with rising rapacity. Due to widespread application of modern technologies people spend more time at their workplace. Therefore, confined to their workstations, they spend less time outdoors. Food produced by special technology and made with artificial ingredients must not be forgotten. Such changes primarily affect human psychology. People become self-interested, less concerned about economizing and greed-driven.
Here is another interesting aspect worth emphasizing. Some psychologists attribute obesity to growth of hubris. This implies disapproving everyone, presumption of superiority and upholding of individual interests. If that is the case, then rapid obesity in the Western societies can primarily be explained by moral-ethical and psychological factors.
More significant from the broader perspective of the society’s interests is the extensive surfacing of the above mentioned factors. If the process endures, the West may encounter multitude of contradictions in the geopolitical and geo-cultural environment. Life full of social and psychological grievances provokes other problems, including demographic ones. This issue has already started to deeply trouble the Western societies. Supplemented by other factors, a compelling social, cultural and psychological picture of the modern age emerges.
Aspects highlighted above indicate that ingredients of the food products are changed using different methods. By employing scientific and technological innovations their nutritional texture is altered. This artificial process is killing people, both physically and mentally. For the sake of gain developed nations are depriving their citizens of their right to live.
This truly denotes the aggression against human life. Nevertheless, these are the very countries who trumpet about human rights and freedoms and democracy. Contradiction is obvious. How successful is this development model? Can developing nations face the same problems, were they to grasp the Western experience?