Obesity in America: Obesity and Sexual Orientation
This study examined the obesity risk for the sexual minority groups in the United States of America. The first part explains the obesity epidemic in the United States and its effects on the common man. It also describes the overall national medical expenditures that are attributable to obesity. In the second part, new approximations of obesity rates by sexual orientation have been presented using the data and information from two large representative surveys conducted in America. The first one is taken from the 2001 California Health Interview Survey that contained the information associated with self-reported sexual orientation. The second one is taken from the 1996-2002 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System that included information regarding the intra-household same-sex unmarried partnerships. Results suggested that gay men are less likely to be obese whereas lesbian women are more likely to be obese when compared with their heterosexual counterparts.
Obesity is the condition that results from disproportionate and unnecessary storage of fat in the body. This condition is described "as a weight more than 20% above what is considered normal according to standard age, height, and weight tables, or by a complex formula known as the body mass index"1. According to estimation, about 30-35% of Americans are fat, overweight or obese1.
It is not an untold secret that obesity is a national health crisis in America. If the current trend continues, obesity will outdo smoking in the United States in next to no time. It is important to mention here that smoking is presently "the biggest single factor in early death, reduced quality of life and added health care costs"2 in the United States of America. According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, obesity is alone to be blamed for more than 160,000 "surplus" deaths in USA annually. The common obese person costs the social order more than $7,000 a year in lost productivity and extra health check-ups. Depending on race and sexual category, lifetime extra medicinal expenses single-handedly, for an individual, seventy pounds or more obese amount to as much as $30,000 2. Thus, obesity has turned out to be the number-one lifestyle-related health concern of the American nation. The current U.S. generation may have a shorter life expectancy than their parents if this obesity epidemic cannot be controlled. The health-costs impact the American economy drastically. According to a recent study3, "medical expenditures attributed to overweight and obesity accounted for 9.1% of total U.S. medical expenditures in 1998 and might have reached 78.5 billion U.S. dollars."
During the past few decades, the realizations of the advancements in economy, society and technology has consequently given rise to the obesity epidemic in the United States. Americans are blessed with inexpensive and sufficient food supply. The availability of edible foods with high caloric density in prepackaged varieties and in fast-food restaurants has also made it easier for Americans to grab whatever they want, wherever they are. The technologies have save them the pain of labor and consequently the amount of physical activity that was once a part of everyday life is also reduced. Last but not the least, the prevalent ease of using electronic devices at home, school and work has encouraged a deskbound lifestyle4.
The question is: Why is obesity a major public health concern in American society? The answer is simple. It is because obesity has predisposed the American citizens to a lot of disorders including "noninsulin-dependent diabetes, hypertension, stroke, and coronary artery disease"1. It is also linked with an increased occurrence of certain cancers especially "cancers of the colon, rectum, prostate, breast, uterus, and cervix"1. Why Is Obesity a Significant Health Problem in America?
The Americans of the twentieth century are benefitting from a standard of living that is ahead of any era in history. The American people are not only well-fed but they also reside in houses that are gorgeous, efficient and inexpensive. Clean water and milk, appropriate sewage systems are available to every American citizen. Not only this, they are free from the miseries that have an adverse effect on a large part of the rest of the world including illnesses, undernourishment and extreme poverty. In addition to this, Americans are cultured, erudite and are provided with the best means to live a comfortable and satisfied life. Nevertheless, they are not sound completely. Unfortunately, their living habits have carried along with them a new morbidity i.e. diseases. Comparable to other modern and developed countries, the Americans are now suffering from "high rates of heart disease, cancer, strokes, and obesity"5.
According to a latest study6 in the American Journal of Health Promotion, the amplification in corpulence costs the industries in U.S.A. An estimated $12.7 billion in health care, sick leave and insurance premiums. General Richard H. Carmona, a well-known U.S. surgeon, affirms that if "simply put, it's a lack of physical activity, a diet that is not well-balanced and sedentary workplace and lifestyle that has caused the obesity epidemic"6.
Out of every four Americans, one is a regular cigarette smoker. They usually acquire this habit in their teenage years. Moreover, most of the people dwell in cities. This is the reason why they couldn't easily walk to work or visit neighbors. In addition to this, thanks to the technologies that save labor, the American citizens have now discovered how to work without being concerned about sweating. Thus, at the end of the day, they reward themselves by consuming big meals and spend evenings watching television. Though, they are so enthusiastic about sports, they normally stay away from involving themselves in physical activities. A fourth of grown-up Americans have problems of high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol. Unfortunately, a majority of them don't realize it just because they are too busy to take some time to find out. On the other hand, though many of them do know, they are not willing or are incapable to take the obtainable medications5 (p4).
Unluckily, due to a lack of awareness, most of the Americans do not connect obesity to possible poor health. It is so important to realize and understand that obesity is, in fact, a chronic condition. It cannot be categorized along with AIDS or Cancer a sensitive, critical, and headline-grabbing disease. Due to this inability to understand, obesity receives less attention in American society. Obesity has sinister effects and complex origins that are not understood well. Though its treatment is not much encouraging, obesity can be prevented if the American people want it to be treated. It is exceedingly important for Americans to realize and understand that obesity is a major health problem and can lead to complications such as heart disease (that could begin in childhood but doesn't appear until one becomes an adult) 5 (p4). If one wants to understand why some people are healthy whereas others are not, it is necessary to first understand how childhood habits can affect one's health in the later life 5 (p5).
The research that has been conducted on sexual orientation and body weight in the previous times has relied for the most part on small expedient samples. In the following research, the data used has been derived from two great representative public health surveys so that the relationships between sexual orientation and body weight could be examined.
Primarily, new approximations of obesity rates by sexual orientation from two large representative surveys have been presented. The first one is taken from the 2001 California Health Interview Survey containing the information related to self-reported sexual orientation. The second one is taken from the 1996-2002 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System that includes information related to intra-household same-sex unmarried partnerships. The evidence crystal clearly states that men who are gay have a much less likeliness to become overweight relative to their heterosexual partners. On the other hand, evidence proves that lesbians have a great probability to become obese. The important thing to mention here is that it is not impossible to provide an easy explanation about such differences by other demographic characteristics. Moreover, no other evidence can be provided to explain that those differences are related to differences in physical doings or muscle strengthening activities. The other findings suggest that gay men who are obese are less likely to be in an affiliation or relationship comparative to their obese heterosexual guy equivalents, even after having power over the overall lower probability of partnership among gay men. Therefore, this becomes clear that minority sexual orientation may exacerbate the barriers associated with obesity7.
As already mentioned, the health concerns in sexual minority populations has been a hot subject for research especially throughout the past few decade. This increasing interest is due to the availability of across-the-board and all-encompassing health surveys that allow the recognition of gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals, also called GLB. The sexual minority populations have also been increasingly studied and researched due to the recent findings that highlight the fact that these particular individuals may possibly counter differential risks for a number of…