Obesity as a Culture-Bound Syndrome in US

This article talks about how obesity in the Unites States has become a culture bound syndrome. It starts of saying what a culture bound syndrome could be compared to or described as, being a disease or symptoms that are only present in certain cultures, being western, Asian, or African. They state that biomedicine is often used as the basis of comparison for any disease or symptoms that any person may come in with. But with the culture bound syndromes the biomedicine does not truly classify the syndrome because of the confusion by biomedicine on the biological data. But with today’s increase in obesity in the United States but not in many other places in the world, it can be classified as a culture bound syndrome.

The increase in obesity in the United States is mainly caused by the increase in consumption in fatty foods, i.e. fast food, donuts, bacon etc… Which was in turn caused by an economic turn, less people are able to pay the larger amounts of money for healthier food, and so more people have to turn to fast food to feed themselves and their families. It also is caused by an increase in advertisement and use by other people so that it has become a cultural norm that people eat unhealthily.

The main sector that it is being described in is the professional sector. This is because the main form of medicine in western society is the professional sector, which uses biomedicine to search for cures for disease and helps to figure out the causes of diseases starting with the biological reasons and then moving into the cultural causes of said biological ailments. Western society does not use folk or family sectors for the majority of medical cases, they are mainly used in secondary medical institutes like psychologists, chiropractors, and physical therapists.

Ritenbaugh, Cheryl. “Obesity as a culture-bound syndrome..” . http://www-ncbi-nlm-nih-gov.proxy2.cl.msu.edu/pubmed/%207160198 (accessed July 18, 2014).

This Post Has 1 Comment

  1. Adam Feuerstein says:

    My concept of a culture is those who share similar thoughts and behavior as you, as well as, live in a similar set of standards. The first part is consistent with what we have learned in class and I think the end part about standard we live in is important. For this reason I think culture is very specific and there are so many types of cultures we are not able to classify them all and are more of a blend. The first part of my definition of a culture allows me to generally agree with the article you read that obesity in the USA is a culturally bound syndrome but the second part does not. American tends to push for a culture that is fast paced and the more production we can make in a day the greater job we have done. This has lead to the consumption of fast food you talk about and an ease of attaining food. However, I think there are so many different cultures in the US that your article could have been broken up into smaller sections to focus on regions. For example, in a big city like New York I think obesity occurs due to the fast paced lifestyle I mentioned earlier and has lead to unhealthy but fast foods. To me this is much different than the part of your post where you said people are eating unhealthy because they cannot afford the healthy foods. In the south there are many poor cities that are eating fried foods and fast food because it is affordable. To me this is a different cultural lifestyle and must be re-evaluated when talking about obesity in America. For these reasons obesity should not be considered culturally bound. The 2 smaller subcultures I described are ways in which different cultures would look at this illness. It is the same illness, just the result of different lifestyle.

Leave a Reply