The term ‘Sociological Imagination’ refers to the awareness of the relationship between personal experience and its connection with society as a whole (Mills 1959). The purpose of this essay was to examine a social issue in contemporary Australia, and discuss how sociology might explain it. The social issue chosen is obesity, in particular, childhood obesity. Overweight and obesity rates have increased rapidly over the past 20 years, not only in Australia, but in developed countries around the world. Nearly two-thirds of Australian adults and one-third of Australian children are classified as overweight or obese (MacKay 2011).
While an individual’s body weight is determined by many factors, it has been widely recognised that an increase in obesity is due to changes in the social, environmental and physical environment (MacKay 2011). This issue affects people of all ages, genders, social classes and geographical locations. Take a look at an average day in society. Most of us have jobs, we rise at a set time every day, go to work or university usually driving or public transport, eat lunch usually on the run, come home after a long day of sitting down to crash out in front of the TV, grabbing whatever is easiest along the way.
Compared to our ancestors’ active lives of hunting and gathering, it’s very unnatural, yet it’s what we do. We, as individuals, have a skewed work/life balance due to society’s fast pace style of living and the lifestyle we have as adults, has serious repercussions on the children of today.
A report by Cleland et. al (2012) found that people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds were more likely to be less active and less healthy than their higher socioeconomic counterparts. Another report by Van Dyck et. l (2012) found that people living in lower economic areas tended to exercise less due to areas being deemed un-walkable or unsafe to exercise outside in.
The increase in sedentary behaviour among children, in particular the increase in screen time, is another factor that has contributed to the increase in childhood obesity (Stanton 2009). While this is a factor affecting all social classes and socioeconomic areas, it may be slightly higher in lower economic areas due to outside being unsafe, however I have not found evidence to support this.
Many people attribute childhood obesity to bad parenting (Olds et. al 2010) which could be one cause due to busy lifestyles and the rising cost of living; however I feel it is not the sole cause. Children are bombarded with information on ‘healthy’ foods yet ‘unhealthy’ food options are constantly at their fingertips. Children receive information on healthy eating and the importance of exercise in schools and in society, alongside TV advertisements advertising fast foods and canteens stocking unhealthy snacking alternatives.
In conclusion, responsibility for both causing and preventing obesity lies with many different players. While it is an individual’s choice to eat certain foods and be active; it is much harder for a child who relies on parental figures to achieve this. It is not only parents’ responsibility to encourage healthy eating and active lives, they must also practice what they preach and provide these options for their children. Children are, after all, the future of Australia.