Cawley, Mary Rosaleen
The psychosocial aspects of obesity: a quantitative & qualitative study.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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This Health Services Research PhD, funded by the Chief Scientist Office (CSO), investigated the psychosocial aspects of obesity in a community sample of men and women aged 30-60 living in deprived and affluent areas of Greater Glasgow. The study incorporated a mixed method design and combined a community health survey and semi-structured interviews with a purposively selected sub-sample of questionnaire respondents.
52% of the participants who completed the questionnaire were either overweight or obese and 16% were defined as obese. Obesity and body image were not significant predictors of poor psychological health. Furthermore, low self-esteem was the most significant predictor of poor psychological health for both men and women.
The quantitative and qualitative findings demonstrate that obese individuals are aware of their current weight status and express a desire to lose weight. Potential motivating factors for weight loss included health concerns, appearance, special occasions and psychological factors such as increased self-esteem and self-confidence.
Participants were knowledgeable about the causes of obesity and had absorbed and understood health promotion messages regarding healthy eating and physical activity. However, they identified a number of barriers, which prevented them from fully implementing health promotion advice.
The qualitative findings suggest the possibility of a cyclical relationship between dieting depression and emotional eating. In addition, the findings demonstrate that weight cycling – losing and regaining weight – was a common experience for the interviewees. As weight cycling is a potentially damaging health problem, it might be more appropriate to encourage obese individuals to maintain a stable weight and improve their health by re-focusing the issue on fitness rather than fatness.
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