People with lower incomes are more likely to be obese due to psychological distress which often makes then binge-eat, says a recent study. Through the study, the researchers tried to examine whether the relationship between lower socioeconomic status (SES) and obesity can be explained by psychological distress and subsequent emotional eating. The findings revealed that people do resort to emotional eating as a coping strategy, if they are in some sort of psychological distress. The findings were published in the Journal of Obesity.
For the study, researcher examined 150 participants from North West England from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds completed questionnaires measuring psychological distress, emotional eating, and resilience.
As part of the study, the participants reported their income and education level as an indicator of socioeconomic status and their height and weight in order to calculate body mass index (BMI).
The findings revealed that lower SES was associated with higher psychological distress, and higher distress was associated with higher emotional eating, which led to morbid fat accumulation. It must be noted that psychological distress alone did not facilitate a relationship between lower SES and BMI.
"The reason for socioeconomic disparities in obesity levels is often attributed to the greater availability of low-cost, calorie-dense foods in more deprived areas relative to more affluent neighbourhoods. However, there is limited evidence for an association between local food environments and obesity, indicating psychological and emotional factors may also play a role," said Charlotte Hardman, lead researcher of the study.
The study also said that higher SES was also associated with emotional eating. However, this pathway was not in response to significant psychological distress. Researchers suggest that these findings indicate an important role for psychological and emotional factors in eating behaviour and body weight regulation, particularly for those of lower SES.