Differences in Race and/or Gender in Attitudes and Beliefs Towards Obesity Among Students at The University of Southern Mississippi

Erick Brown, The University of Southern Mississippi


Overweight and obesity have been described by various experts as critical problems in populations around the world, especially in the United States. These issues are so characterized because they affect numerous facets of life in this society. Researchers in the medical community have repeatedly described the health-related risks associated with obesity rates, asserting that higher risks of debilitating or fatal disease are tied to one’s level of obesity. They also say that obesity rates of populations are related to other disease rates, and many imply or clearly state that obesity is the cause and therefore the problem to be contested. Expert economists have a similar perspective of overweight and obesity. Government agencies and independent researchers all repeatedly presented two basic conclusions in their research: that the rise in obesity prevalence is increasingly costly to society at large, and that the economic conditions of individuals and their families affect their risk for obesity. Social scientists also describe weight control as a problem in the United States and abroad, contrasting only in their description of its causes. Social research has focused on the role of the social environment (i.e. access to healthful options for food, exercise and healthcare; social desirability of overweight and obesity in particular communities) in analyzing the social problem of weight management. Most findings in such research have been linked to traditional demographic classifications such as race and gender, usually in an attempt to describe social disparities. It is common to find that these researchers reject the notion that individuals have the ability or the responsibility to manage their weight alone, labeling this notion as a fundamental attribution error.

This has led recent study in this field to shift its focus to psychosocial and environmental explanations for the recurring phenomenon of increasing obesity prevalence. Contemporary researchers feel that the macrosocial and microsocial causes of this trend intersect when one’s attitudes about obesity affect and are affected by the aggregate of related stimuli in one’s social environment. This study seeks to describe such attitudes of college students at the University of Southern Mississippi. These attitudes will be described according only to the level of negativity found in survey responses, and will be compiled and analyzed according to race and gender as indicated in the title.