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Prevalence of Obesity among the Poor Analytical Essay


In the past, being overweight was seen as a sign as wealth and affluence since the condition is caused by overindulgence in foods. This is not the case in modern day where obesity afflicts all sections of the society.

An interesting trend in modern society has been the increase in obesity cases among the poor. In Western society, the poor have for the first time in history become proportionately the most obese sector of the population.

This issue has raised concern among policy makers and health care providers since obesity results in multiple negative health consequences. This paper will set out to explain the reasons why a link is being observed between obesity and poverty in the Western Society.

The paper will then demonstrate that as a growing economy, my Country, Saudi Arabia, demonstrates the same trend with the poor making up the most obese sector of the population.

Poor people are likely to have lower levels of education, which increases their risk of being obese. The relationship between poverty and lower education arises since low education is related to lower occupational status.

People with lower education are unlikely to obtain relevant information on the health consequences of obesity and being overweight (Daniels, Queen, & Schumacher 2007).

Many low-income families remain ignorant of the deleterious effects that unhealthy foods such as fast foods have to their health. Nadira et al (2008) explain that most poor people remain unaware of the health risks associated with obesity.

Some even regard obesity as a good thing since they assume that it is a feature of affluence. Low education increases the likelihood of a person being ignorant of the nutritional content of the food he consumes.

Without this knowhow, the poor people do not eat a balanced diet and this increases their chances of being obese. Finding from a study by Tarek (2008) indicated that mothers to obese children were less educated highlighting the relationship between education and obesity.

On the other hand, educated individuals are likely to have more knowledge of the nutritional value of the foods they consume.

This will mitigate obesity in this group since the unhealthy foods that increase the risk of obesity have low nutritional value and will most likely be avoided by the educated person.

The poor are more likely to indulge in sugary and high calorie foods, which are cheaper than consume the health foods. Poverty is characterized by a scarcity of monetary resources and most poor people are forced to buy cheap foods out of financial considerations.

Williams (2011) documents that unhealthy foods cost less than healthy foods and as such, people with limited finances have little choice but to consume the unhealthy foods due to their affordability.

This observation is corroborated by the Food Research and Action Center (2013) which asserts that “healthy food is often more expensive, whereas refined grains, added sugars, and fats are generally inexpensive and readily available in low-income communities” (1).

The purchasing power of the poor also decreases the availability of healthy foods within their locality. In the US, the availability of health foods in poor urban neighbourhoods is low due to market forces.

Freeman (2007) explains that shops offering cheap fast foods have grown in poor neighbourhoods while supermarkets stocking fresh, high-quality foods have been forced to relocate to the more spacious and affluent suburbs due to economic realities.

Block, Scribner, and DeSalvo (2004) report that the number of fast food restaurants in low-income neighbourhoods is higher than the number of these unhealthy food establishments in high-income neighbourhoods.

Some individuals argue that the food that one consumes is a matter of personal choice and as such, poor people cannot blame their unhealthy eating habits on their financial conditions.

Freeman (2007) refutes this claim by demonstrating that poverty reduces the personal choice that low-income people have when it comes to food choices since most cheap foods also happen to be unhealthy.

The financial stable members of the society are able to make a personal choice concerning the foods they consume since money is not the primary consideration. Middle to high-income people are therefore able to avoid obesity more easily by choosing to consume expensive health foods.

The cultural influence of people from low socio-economic backgrounds increases their chances of being obese. Most low-income people have a poor eating culture and consumption of high-fat foods such as steak and ribs is encouraged.

In such a setting, poor eating habits are promoted therefore increasing the chances of becoming obese. The poor also suffer from a lack of facilities that can be used to promote physical fitness.

Poor people often live in low-income neighbourhoods where recreational facilities are few or even non-existent.

Research indicates that lower income neighbourhoods lack the significant amount of parks, bike paths, and recreational facilities that higher income neighbourhoods possess (Powell, Slater & Chaloupka 2004).

Consequently, low-income people are likely to engage in a more sedentary lifestyle such as watching television for long hours and playing video games.

Nadira et al. (2008) concede that due to lack of opportunities, low-income people make more use of the unhealthy but widely available leisure activities such as watching television.

Lower income areas also lack health care facilities where people can obtain basic health care services (Koplan & Liverman 2005). With basic health care services, a person is exposed to information on healthy eating.

These facilities also provide the community with the means with which to mitigate emerging health problems such as obesity. The lack of availability of such facilities to the poor increases the obesity prevalence among them.

Obesity among Saudi Arabia’s Poor

Murphy (2010) declares that the prevalence of obesity in the Saudi population has risen significantly over the past decade with one in every three citizens being considered obese. As the Kingdom has achieved greater economic growth, the prevalence of obesity has increased.

The Obesity Research Centre (2013) reveals that the influence of the Western world on Saudi culture has contributed to the prevalence of obesity in the Kingdom.

The prevalence of obesity has followed the pattern of the Western society with the poor being proportionately the most obese sector in the Saudi population. Just like in the west, the poor in the Saudi society have lower levels of education.

Nadira et al (2008) demonstrate that the low level of education has contributed to poor health eating habits among the low-income members of the society. This group does not know how to eat a balanced diet leading to a higher prevalence of obesity.

The lack of money has also contributed to the consumption of cheap fast foods among the poor in Saudi Arabia. In the urban setting, fast foods are not only cheaper but also more easily available in poor neighbourhoods.

Just like in the Western society, fast food stores are exhibiting growth in low-income neighbourhoods in Saudi Arabia. This price advantage and ease of availability has contributed to the high consumption rate of the unhealthy fast foods by the poor in the country.

In Saudi Arabia, a poor culture among the low-income members of the society predisposes this group to obesity. Research by Nadira et al (2008) reveal that some of the poor in the eastern province of SA had a culture of eating unhealthy foods.

Overindulgence in food is celebrated among the poor, leading to poor eating habits. The poor in Saudi Arabia also lack adequate recreational facilities.

Al-Hazzaa et al. (2011) document that recreational facilities in most low-income neighbourhoods are few or even absent. This limitation on access to recreational facilities has fuelled the growth of obesity.


This paper set out to explain the connection between poverty and obesity in most Western countries. The paper began by acknowledging that obesity is becoming prevalent among the poor in the Western society and proceeded to give some of the reasons behind this phenomenon.

It demonstrated the poor are often ill-educated making them ignorant of the dangers that obesity presents in their lives.

The paper also highlighted that the poor are often forced to consume unhealthy foods since these foods are cheaper and more widely available to them than healthy foods. The lack of recreational facilities also increases the prevalence of obesity among the poor.

The paper then proceeded to demonstrate that Saudi Arabia faces the same link between poverty and obesity.

From the discussion presented in this paper, it is clear that the growth of obesity is caused by socio-economic situations. Dealing with obesity will therefore require the underlying social issue of poverty to be addressed.


Al-Hazzaa, H. Nada A., Hana, A., Qahwaji, D. & Musaiger, A. 2011, ‘’, International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, vol. 8, no.1, pp. 140-148. Web.

Block, J. Scribner, R. & DeSalvo, K. 2004, ‘Fast Food, Race/Ethnicity, and Income: A Geographic Analysis’, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, vol. 27, no.2, pp. 211–17. Web.

Daniels, D. Queen, A. J. Schumacher, D. 2007, ‘’, Principal, vol. 86, no. 3, pp. 42-47.

Food Research and Action Center 2013, Why Low-Income and Food Insecure People are Vulnerable to Overweight and Obesity. Web.

Freeman, A. 2007, ‘’, California Law Review, vol. 95, no.1, pp. 2221-2259. Web.

Koplan, J. P. & Liverman C. T. 2005, ‘’, National Academies Press. Web.

Murphy, C. 2010, . Web.

Nadira, A. Ageel, G. Khalid, A. Ahmad, E. Mahmood, M. & Fadel, A. 2008, ‘Overweight and obesity in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia’, Saudi Med J, vol. 29, no. 9, pp. 1319-1325. Web.

Obesity Research Center 2013, Obesity in Saudi Arabia. Web.

Powell, L. Slater, S. & Chaloupka, J. 2004, ‘The relationship between community physical activity setting and race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status’, Evidence-Based Preventive Medicine, vol. 1, no.2, pp. 135-144. Web.

Tarek, T. A. 2008, ‘’, Eur J Nutr, vol. 47, no. 1, pp. 310–318. Web.

Williams, Z. 2011, Web.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Prevalence of Obesity among the Poor." February 26, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/prevalence-of-obesity-among-the-poor/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Prevalence of Obesity among the Poor'. 26 February.

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