The causes and health risks of obesity


Obesity and weight-related issues have become a global epidemic, with rates almost trebling since the 1970s. The impact this can have on physical as well as psychological health is huge, with an estimated 4 million people dying each year.

The psychological effects of obesity can also seriously impact a person’s wellbeing, with links to body dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, anxiety, low mood and lack of confidence.

What impact can obesity have on health?

Obesity can cause numerous health problems that are preventable and directly raises the risk of:

  • Heart attack

  • Stroke

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)

  • Cardiovascular disease

  • Coronary heart disease

  • Raised cholesterol levels

  • Insulin resistance

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Back pain

What causes obesity?

It’s more complicated than you might think. Research has shown that there are over 100 different factors that can contribute to weight gain. At an individual level these include: genetics, underlying health problems, medications, mental health, sleep, poverty or environment. At a broader level they include shifts in values in societies and communities, work and home lifestyle patterns, food production and access to healthy food, food prices, transport infrastructure and access to outdoor spaces. Changes to how we live and work over the last few decades have created an environment that makes obesity much more likely.

Obesity is also a complex condition. Fundamentally the cause is an imbalance of calories in versus calories out, but while simplified messages about eating less and moving more can have their place, they are often not enough as they don’t address their a person’s barriers to weight loss and preferences.

Research has highlighted widespread belief that obesity is caused by behaviours well within a person’s control – namely, diet and exercise – when in reality there are numerous factors at play which are often partly or completely outside of it, such as environmental and social factors.

Interventions for improving diet and activity levels can’t address all of these factors, but can be effective for supporting lifestyle changes in individuals. Your local Alphega Pharmacist is on hand to provide expert information and support, assisting anyone looking to achieve long-lasting changes that will benefit their health. Find your nearest Alphega Pharmacy here