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Rural areas see increases in obesity rates

A study found that obesity rates aren’t increasing as quickly for consumers who live in cities

Photo (c) draganab - Getty Images
Obesity continues to plague consumers worldwide, and as protecting consumers’ health is at the forefront of researchers’ minds, a new study found that geographic location could play a role in the likelihood of developing obesity.

A new study found that obesity rates are increasing faster in rural areas compared with bigger cities.

“The results of this massive global study overturn commonly held perceptions that more people living in cities is the main cause of the global rise in obesity,” said researcher Majid Ezzati. “This means that we need to rethink how we tackle this global health problem.”

Seeing a shift

The researchers tracked consumers’ weight for over thirty years, analyzing different trends in weight gain and obesity levels in over 112 million adults between 1985 and 2017. The participants hailed from 200 different countries and territories worldwide.

Two years prior to the start of the study, the researchers noted that adults in cities were heavier than those living in more rural areas; however, over the course of their study, they found that trend to shift in the opposite direction.

“Discussions around public health tend to focus more on the negative aspects of living in cities,” Ezzati said. “In fact, cities provide a wealth of opportunities for better nutrition, more physical exercise and recreation, and overall improved health. These things can be harder to find in rural areas.”

The researchers also saw another trend emerge from their study: the wealth of a country played a large role in the increase of weight gain. For example, living outside of major cities in high-income countries often means it’s more difficult to get to the gym or access healthy food, thus causing a sharp uptick in weight for many residents.

Additionally, as lower-income countries work to provide better technological and career opportunities for consumers, more people are getting behind the wheel and completing less physical activity.

The researchers hope that these emerging trends change the way public officials go about combating obesity, and make more of an effort to see how various factors can influence how consumers are gaining weight.

“As countries increase wealth, the challenge for rural populations changes from affording enough to eat, to affording good quality food,” said Ezzati.

Getting a few extra steps in

While public transportation can often be limited in more rural areas, city dwellers who take advantage of the offerings can be doing more than they realize to fight off obesity.

A recent study found that when consumers make more of an effort to utilize public transportation, obesity rates go down.

“Opting for mass transit over driving creates opportunities for exercise that may otherwise not exist,” said researcher Sheldon H. Jacobson. “Instead of just stepping out of the house and into his car, riders need to walk from their home to a bus stop and from their stop to a destination.”

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