Low-income people are more likely to engage in emotional eating and become obese due to psychological distress, a study published by a group of researchers from the University of Liverpool suggested.
The study analyzed the diets and psychological issues of 150 people in northwest England and its results were published in the journal Obesity, John Tung Foundation Mental Health Center director Yeh Ya-hsing (葉雅馨) said on Monday.
The study found a correlation between lower socioeconomic status and higher psychological distress, as well as between heightened psychological distress and emotional eating, and high risks of obesity, she said.
Compared with people living in more affluent communities, those living in poorer neighborhoods have easier access to low-cost and high-calorie foods, Yeh said, citing the study.
The study also found a correlation between psychological distress and eating behavior and body weight adjustment, she said.
Emotional eating refers to eating “mindlessly” and without any moderation, Yeh said.
People are likely to exceed the recommended daily maximum calorie intake and become obese if they continuously engage in emotional eating as a way to relieve stress, she said.
Emotional eating might bring a sense of pleasure and satisfaction, but those feelings would be quickly replaced by negative emotions, Yeh said.
Rather than restricting their diet, people can calculate the calories of the food they are about to eat and associate the calories with the exercise they have to do to burn them, she said.
This way, people can think about the hours they would need to spend exercising to burn the excess calories even when they are out of control emotionally, Yeh said, adding that people should make a habit of this.
Rich people who are bored or idle are also a high-risk group for obesity, she said.
Differences in socioeconomic status cause health inequality, as people from a lower socioeconomic background are at a disadvantage when seeking healthcare, Taipei Medical University professor Chiou Hung-yi (邱弘毅) said.
Obesity is a key factor affecting people’s health, he said.
“The government should strive to create a dietary environment in which people from different socioeconomic status have access to healthier diets and avoid obesity risks,” Chiou said.
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