Medical and Social Scientific Debates over Body Weight

Abigail C. Saguy and Paul Campos

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

 Medical and Social Scientific Debates over Body Weight

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This chapter reviews medical assumptions that higher body mass is necessarily and in and of itself unhealthy, and also evaluates the social processes which contribute to scientific and popular understandings of obesity as a medical problem and public health crisis. The social implications of reinforcing and legitimizing such assumptions are then explained. There is evidence that the obesity epidemic resonates on a symbolic level for many Americans. The extent to which obesity and/or being overweight represents a public health crisis is a topic of heated medical debate. While most social scientists choose to ignore, minimize, or bracket these debates, others are examining the evidence on both sides, searching for social, political, and economic factors contributing to the emergence of obesity as a major social problem, and studying the social effects of framing higher body weight as a medical pathology.

Keywords: body weight; body mass; obesity; medical problem; public health; social problem

Article.  5130 words. 

Subjects: Economics ; Health, Education, and Welfare

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