Associations of Psychological Well-Being and Interpersonal Relations with Obesity

By Mehar, Harpreet | Journal of Psychosocial Research, January-June 2014 | Go to article overview

Associations of Psychological Well-Being and Interpersonal Relations with Obesity


Mehar, Harpreet, Journal of Psychosocial Research


INTRODUCTION

India is experiencing multiple transitions with respect to nutrition patterns as along with staggering childhood under nutrition, there is a rapid rise in obesity among all sections of society (Khandelwal and Reddy, 2013). Obesity is a condition that is visible at the first sight and cannot be hidden. The exterior part of the body is given emphasis and treatments are started to reduce the magnitude of obesity in an individual. However other factors that are not overtly visible and do play a role in obesity like their psychological well - being and their social relations is essential to be looked into to have an overall picture of the situation. Addressing only physical aspects of obesity would be addressing just the cover of the book without addressing the content inside. Research on obesity is predominantly on physical aspects while the psychological and social aspects of obesity are not addressed adequately and there is a dearth of research on the same especially in the Indian situation. There is research on obesity in the Indian scenario in children and adolescents but research on adults is mainly restricted to the prevalence of obesity in India. Hence the aim of this paper is to look into the psychological and social challenges faced by obese adults and how their well being gets affected and address ways that these challenges can be faced.

Obesity is usually defined in terms of body mass index (BMI). The WHO-endorsed international classification defines obesity in three grades: BMI 25 to 29.9 kg/m2 = Grade 1 obesity (moderate overweight); BMI 30 to 39.9 kg/m2 = Grade 2 obesity (severe overweight); and BMI > 40 kg/m2 = Grade 3 obesity (massive/morbid obesity).

Well-being is one of the most important goals which individuals strive for. Well- being has been a pervasive and extensively researched construct in psychology for the last 40 years. Throughout history, theorists have been curious about what contributes to well-being. Sense of well-being is a logical consequence of both good physical and mental health. It affects our perceptions of the external world such that we are able to view them with greater positivity and deal with day to day problems effectively. Thus, for our mental and physical health together with effective living, psychological well-being is an important goal. Psychological well-being is a person's evaluative reactions to his or her life - either in terms of life satisfaction, 'cognitive evaluations' or affect 'ongoing emotional reactions' (Diener and Diener, 1995). Here the importance of well being is as per the individuals judgement based on their own criteria for evaluating their quality of life. Ryff (1995) defined psychological well-being as "The striving for perfection that represents the realisation of one's own true potential."It is inevitable that both obesity and well being are interlinked as any physical condition is related to psychological wellbeing too.

Obesity and psychological well being

Overweight and obesity are associated with poor levels of subjective health status. However, obesity is a stigmatized condition, and obese individuals face social exclusion and discrimination in many areas of their lives. Nevertheless this can affect the psychological well being. The aspects of psychological well-being believed to be most seriously compromised in obesity are body image, self-esteem and emotional well- being. (Wardle and Cooke, 2005). Modern western culture emphasizes thinness, denigrates excess weight, and stigmatizes obese individuals, making it likely that obese people internalize these messages and feel badly about the physical presence that brands them (Schwartz and Brownel, 2004). Interestingly, some evidence suggests that obesity self-esteem has little to do with actual body weight, and more to do with obesity self- image. Self-perceived weight affects self-esteem more than actual weight. In other words, people who perceived themselves as overweight or obese had lower self-esteem than those who did not consider themselves overweight. …

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