Lower Socioeconomic Status and Increases in Weight

One would think that weight gain would be a problem for people with low socioeconomic status. However, unhealthy weight gain is more common in lower socioeconomic status than in higher socioeconomic status. These unhealthy increases in weight have the potential to lead to obesity and other health related issues.

People of lower SES are often living paycheck to paycheck and have trouble paying their bills. This has the potential to cause stress which could lead people to cope by consuming comfort foods that are high in sugar as well as foods that are processed and high in fat.

Some people with lower socioeconomic status (SES) participate in government assistance, food programs in order to supplement their income. The types of groceries that are available to them are usually those that are inexpensive and low in quality. The ingredients in these foods are often addictive and satisfying and gives them feelings of emotional and physical satiation for longer periods of time. It is also more cost-effective for those of lower SES to purchase foods that are both addictive and unhealthy for them.

Lower SES families often choose foods that are high in fat, dense in energy, sugar laden and processed because these foods are not only more affordable, but they also last longer than fresh produce and lean meats and fish. Also, to eat a diet of fresh produce and lean meats is expensive, therefore people of lower SES do not reap the benefits of consuming these healthier foods.

Although cost is a factor more often than not healthier products are not readily available in areas of low SES.

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The lack of availability of quality foods in low income areas is referred to as food deserts. Unlike markets in areas of higher SES neighborhoods where fresh produce and lean meats are easily accessible, families who shop in poorer areas are accustomed to foods that are pre-packaged as “family value” but these foods are often processed and contain more fat than lean meat. This is one element of low socioeconomic status and its role in unhealthy increases in weight.

The Impact of Wealth on Weight

In an article written by Au & Johnston (2015) the main idea about this subject is to determine if unexpected increases in wealth would have an effect on increases in weight. The study explores how wealth can have an effect on weight, body mass index, and obesity. The goal was to determine if an unexpected increase in wealth leads to an increase in weight. The unexpected increases in wealth were referred to as “wealth shocks.” Wealth shock included lottery winnings and inheritances and were potential factors in determining the influence of wealth on weight. In their study they determined that some increases in wealth also caused an increase in weight in woman but not men. The authors explored areas of unexpected wealth shocks as well as anticipated inheritances and their possible effects on weight gain based on the behavior of the individuals.

The information states, poor women are more likely than wealthy women to be obese, however, the article failed to mention the effects of food deserts and the reduction of quality groceries in low income areas. The authors suggest that an increase in wealth could result in better access to healthier eating and exercise facilities, but not necessarily a change of environment that would result in a healthier lifestyle. Au & Johnston conclude that unexpected increases in wealth may or may not be determinants to increases in weight (2015).

Socioeconomic Status and Weight

Another idea, by Johnston & Lordan (2012) is a concept to shed light on the causes of the relationship between income and excessive weight gain and the need for policies and educational services to be developed and implemented. The study involved adults who were overweight or obese with a focus on socioeconomic status. The article suggests individuals with more income are likely to recognize that they are overweight than those of lower income status. The research suggests that once this has been acknowledged, people with higher income status will try to adopt a healthier lifestyle in order to lose weight. The article suggests that if individuals are not aware that they are overweight, they are also not aware that being overweight may pose many health risks.

There is evidence that supports that being overweight can be perceived as healthy in peer relationships of poor people because of lack health education in low income areas. This comes as a result of what is considered as normal in one’s socioeconomic environment. The authors suggest more public education in low income areas on what is considered overweight and the health risk associated with obesity. This will give individuals the knowledge and necessary steps to improve their health. Recognizing, acknowledging, and educating people in low income areas of problems associated with excessive weight could result in healthier lifestyles and possibly less illnesses in those individuals. In conclusion Johnston & Lordan says income has an effect on how individuals perceive weight.

Weight Perceptions and Income

A third aspect of Powell-Wiley and colleagues (2014) states that income and education in relation to residential selection influence weight change between socioeconomic status. The author’s purpose to evaluate weight change in relation to socioeconomic deprivation. The authors suggest socioeconomic deprivation level has an effect on weight and is likely to result in increases of obesity related cardiovascular risks in poor populations. The authors note that income and education in relation to residential selection influence weight change in higher socioeconomic classes.

The third author concludes that higher neighborhood deprivation indexes equal greater deprivation. The greater the deprivation the more likely it is to have increased in weight.

Socioeconomic Deprivation and Weight Gain Predictions

A fourth source, Ball & Crawford (2004) states, “lower socioeconomic status is associated with weight gain or risk of weight gain over time.” The author’s purpose was to compare, compare the relationship to weight gain over time between people in lower and higher socioeconomic statuses (SES). The author’s hypothesized that people with lower SES would have “greater weight gain or risk of weight gain over time” (2004). Many studies were reviewed in order to identify the types of socioeconomic status and influence they have to weight gain and weight maintenance.

The author’s found that lower SES is relative to weight gain. Therefore, the lower SES has a greater likelihood of gaining weight and a lower likelihood of weight loss or weight maintenance (2004). Some of the participants in the study age 18 to 30 years old had not obtained education qualifications, therefore weakening the study. Insufficient data needed to draw conclusions about underdeveloped countries also weakened the study.

Although the results were not entirely consistent because sample from black people and insufficient data relating to underdeveloped countries were not included, the authors conclude that the focus of weight gain prevention efforts would better serve those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged or with low occupational status.

Relative Body Weight and Obesity

Yet another idea from Sarlio- Lähteenkorva & Lissau (2005) is that obese people are in a lower social class than people of normal weight and that more attention should be devoted to inequalities of this nature. Educational, occupational, and marital statuses were ascertained and separately categorized in people of Danish and Finnish descent. The authors suggest Finnish women and men are more often obese that Danish women and men. Unmarried Danish women are more likely to be obese than married Finnish women. In terms of educational status there is not a difference in the countries socioeconomic patterning.

This study suggests that those who have higher socioeconomic status are less likely to be obese that those in lower socioeconomic status. It is noted in the distribution of occupational, educational and marital attainment that Denmark has more upper and lower white collar workers than Finland. Higher educational levels are also more prevalent in Denmark and Denmark’s unmarried marital status is barely lower than that of Finland. Participants in the Finland are either self-employed or unemployed and this could account for the weight discrepancy.

The authors conclude that because of occupational levels, Finnish men and women have higher increases in weight and are more obese that Danish men and women, therefore, more focus should be directed toward inequalities that are weight related.

Taking all of this into account, the current study aims to expand on the results of previous literature. Since income can have an effect on the types of foods people consume, the current study will analyze education and occupation levels of participants with low income as it pertains to weight increases. Also, the availability of quality foods in low income neighborhoods will be outlined because these foods are not easily accessible in low income areas.

Hypothesis: The hypothesis stated that people with lower socioeconomic status are more susceptible to weight increases compared to people with higher socioeconomic status. It is expected that the level of education and occupation will be predictors of weight changes.


The current study will be conducted using a non- experimental, between-subjects design. This design is being used in order to demonstrate cause and effect of weight between lower and higher socioeconomic classes. Socioeconomic status as a cause of differentiation for weight increase is the focus of the study. In conducting a between subject design this study will compare results from participants from two different socioeconomic backgrounds. A mixed-method of qualitative and quantitative data will be collected. These methods include written surveys, food diaries, collection of education and occupation information, age, and observations of weight measurements.


There will be a total of 100 participants in this study. The ages of the participants are 18 to 40, as a means of ensuring that some form of socioeconomic status has been independently obtained. The income limit is $50,000 and there is no minimum income requirement. Volunteers for this study will be randomly collected from local libraries in the Little Rock metropolitan area. The research will be conducted over one month and participation will be limited to those who voluntarily signs a consent form.


In order to effectively execute the study, a survey of closed ended questions will also be distributed, and all participants will answer the same questions on a Likert rating scale. The surveys will include the following questions: Do you eat three meals a day? Are there fresh produce markets in your area? Where do you buy groceries? All of these questions will have a two to four answers from which to select. These types of questions are quantitative in nature and will allow for an assessment of food intake as well as information on the availability of quality foods in the participant’s area.

A qualitative measure of foods consumed will be recorded by the participants as they will be asked to keep an individual food diary. By journaling the food intake, and the times associated with eating, researchers will be granted access in order be able to assess the nutritional value of those foods. Beginning body mass index, beginning waist circumference, and beginning weight will be collected and recorded. These measurements will also be taken at the end of the study and used for data analysis.


The procedure will be conducted by collecting data that will be both quantitative and qualitative in nature. First the participants BMI, waist circumference and weight will be collected and recorded. Participants will then be administered a face to face survey that has designated questions that are fixed (multiple choice). The survey will be completed in one day. The participants will also be given food journals to record their daily food intake. Food journal will be collected at the end of a 30-day period. Following the 30-day period, participants will also be asked to return for final BMI, waist and weight measurements. Because samples are random from their perspective populations the researcher will use an independent t-test in order to analyze collected data using SPSS software.

Participants will be requested to complete the survey and journals as accurately as possible. However, it will be at their discretion to abide by the request. One potential confound with the food diaries is the participants may have recalled biases if they do not record their food consumptions immediately.

Due to the nature of this research, the researcher will conduct observations of the participants based on the findings after conclusive on the last day of the field study. Additional information as it might relate to this and future studies will be recorded. This information will remain confidential and it will only be used for further advancement in the research of the study’s subject. At the conclusion of the study an audiotaped open session will be conducted with open- ended feedback from participants. The feedback from the participants will be used for consideration for future studies as they may relate to this topic. Participants for the open session will be limited to those who have signed a consent form. The researcher will attempt to take all necessary precautions respects the privacy of participants and collected information.

Brief Data Analysis Plan

The main goal of this study is to compare weight, body mass index, and waist circumference between the subjects. This data will be categorized as quantitative in nature. Data analysis will be completed using an independent T-test in a SPSS software since there are several levels of the independent variable being compared between two groups of participants. Since the types of foods people eat differs between the two statuses and may have an effect on weight increases; comparing the weight, body mass index, and waist circumference between the two classes of people will be conducted.

Expected Results

The current study proposed aims to expand on the results of previous literature by analyzing the effects of income as it pertains to weight increases in people of lower socioeconomic status. There is only one hypothesis that this study is aiming to accept or reject. The proposed t-test will be used to determine the differences between lower SES females and higher SES females. The expected findings of the t-test will result in an increase in body mass index, weight, and waist circumference in lower socioeconomic females when compared to their counterparts of higher socioeconomic status

Hypothesis: The hypothesis states that people of lower socioeconomic status will have an increase in weight oppose to people of higher socioeconomic status. It is expected that increases in body mass index, weight, and waist circumference within lower socioeconomic females as compared to their counterparts of higher socioeconomic status will be found. Alternately, it is expected that males in both socioeconomic statuses will remain consistent in weight, body mass index, and waist circumference.

Proposed Discussion

The purpose of the study is to further analyze socioeconomic status as it pertains to increases in weight among people of lower socioeconomic class. The current study’s results can be used to help people of all statuses be more aware of the food that they consume and the effect that those foods can have on their bodies. People of lower socioeconomic status have fewer resources in which to purchase healthy foods and this results in weight increases. Perhaps, consuming unhealthy foods during times of stress may be comforting, but the results of doing so could possibly be life changing. Unhealthy increases in weight have the potential to lead to other health related issues. The study can be used to bring awareness to the issue and help people make better decisions about the foods that they consume on a daily basis.

The results from this study will expand the previous literature in regards to income and its effect on increases in weight by outlining the absence of quality of foods in low income areas. The previous studies have not outlined the importance of supplying market in lower income neighborhoods with quality lean meats and fresh produce that are affordable. Therefore, this study can offer results that can potentially help city leaders to make decisions on properly stocking markets in lower income neighborhoods so that residents will have an equal chance of purchasing and consuming foods that are nourishing and healthy.

Future Research

Perhaps future research should be focused on the quality of foods that are available to people in low income areas. Food choices is just one aspect of weight increases within lower socioeconomic status. Another aspect is the availability of exercise facilities or parks where people might feel safe to exercise. Future studies, educating people of lower socioeconomic status about weight and the effectiveness of said education on the subject may be conducted in future studies. Educating people who live in lower SES neighborhoods about the importance of healthy eating and gradual lifestyle changes could have the potential to change many lives.


There are many possible limitations in this study that could have an affect on the analysis as well as the accuracy of the data. The participant’s will keep personal food diaries and this kind of self- reporting could potentially result in recall biases; participants are more likely than not to log meals inaccurately. With income being personal information, self- reporting of income may either be omitted or incorrectly reported as well as information that pertains to education and other assets. Since this is sensitive information and some participants may choose not to self disclose for fear of shame or the fear of personal information being mishandled. A predisposition to weight gain could potentially have a negative influence over the study.

Also, it is not possible to account for all aspects of socioeconomic statuses as there are various ways of measuring these statuses. The childhood parental socioeconomic status does not account for and this could also greatly influence the results. This being said, the current study remains valid. It should be noted that the intention for using random sampling is to ensure that everyone who wants to participate has an equal chance of being selected, however, this is not a true representative sample of the population.

This proposed study aims to evaluate how weight gain is synonymously related to socioeconomic status. The results from this study hope to build on previous literature by assessing disadvantage socioeconomic environments and the lack of education on healthy eating available to people who live in those neighborhoods. This study further explores the views of the participants as they pertain to perceptions of themselves, their environment, as well as their eating habits.

Whether someone is in a single parent household with limited income or a dual parent household with unlimited income, this study highlights the effect of weight gain, as it relates to socioeconomic status, is a societal issue that should be further addressed.

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Lower Socioeconomic Status and Increases in Weight. (2022, Apr 19). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/lower-socioeconomic-status-and-increases-in-weight/

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