The Epidemiology of Obesity

Aviva Must and E. Whitney Evans

in The Oxford Handbook of the Social Science of Obesity

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199736362
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 The Epidemiology of Obesity

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This chapter provides a discussion on obesity epidemiology. Measures of disease occurrence are used by epidemiologists to study the distribution of obesity, the most commonly used of which are prevalence and incidence. Data suggest that adults may have a risk of becoming obese during adulthood of between 10–25 percent and a greater than 30 percent risk of becoming obese over their lifetime. Diet, physical activity, and sedentary behaviors have emerged as the primary proximal behaviors that give rise to the energy imbalance necessary to cause obesity in genetically susceptible individuals. Key challenges to the epidemiologic methods with respect to obesity research include: measurement issues of the key dietary, physical activity, and behavioral risk factors; control of confounding variables; accounting for the presence of bidirectionality; and the need for experimental study designs that account for multiple levels of influence.

Keywords: obesity; epidemiology; disease occurrence; dietary risk factors; physical activity; behavioral risk; bidirectionality; energy imbalance

Article.  11015 words. 

Subjects: Economics ; Health, Education, and Welfare

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