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Sociological Imagination And Obesity

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This essay will discuss how some of the key concepts and ideas in the Sociological Imagination (reference?) can be linked to the current issue of obesity in the UK. Despite the prevention of obesity being somewhat under the control of an individual, I will argue that high obesity rates can be caused by much larger and powerful forces, these factors are typically out of one’s control. This essay will be discussing the relation between deprivation, gender and obesity.

Mills in the Sociological Imagination (Mills, 1959), mentions “individual agency”(Mills, 1959) this is how one can carve society, the idea that one has the ability to control their own life through their choices and decisions, a sense of free will. However, Mills emphasises this idea is flawed, he mentions there are “traps” (Mills, 1959) within society, like institutionalised social structures (both obvious and hidden), these can block people from moving up within society. He creates the image that these social structures are so broad, powerful and deeply rooted they stop the individual from progressing past a certain point within society, despite having strong individual agency, proving structure and agency are intertwined. Mills stresses the distinction between “biography and history” (Mills, 1959), Mills states people are made by “society and its historical push and shove”, the idea that our own lives are affected by the history our society has emerged from. Patterns in history create huge forces that can have an extremely influential effect on our lives, history is the “framework” of modern societies (Mills, 1959) current subjects can be understood more when the history of them is acknowledged. Mills discusses the relationship between “personal troubles” and “public issues”, “troubles” being able to be resolved by the individual who is affected and “issues” being matters that are out of an individual’s control (such as institutions of a historical society)(Mills, 1959). It is implied the two are linked, that private troubles of an individual can be caused by public matters.

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My data source revealed there were strong links between obesity, area deprivation and gender in adults within England. The results found that areas with the largest levels of deprivation had the highest Body Mass Index (BMI) and the presence of obesity was much more common, with 35% of men and 37% of women being obese. In comparison, 20% of men and 21% of women were obese in the wealthiest areas (Anne Conolly and Sylvie Craig, 2019) The findings also show how waist circumference was more likely to be the largest in areas with greater levels of deprivation (39% of men and 59% of women had a large waist circumference), whereas, 29% of men and 40% of women had a high waist circumference in the most fortunate areas. (Anne Conolly and Sylvie Craig, 2019). The data was collected by using the Health Survey for England (HSE) and measurements were then taken from a representative sample of the people who took part in the survey (Anne Conolly and Sylvie Craig, 2019). Using representative samples is a useful method as it represents the overall population (Anne Conolly and Sylvie Craig, 2019) as it takes all social groups into account, meaning everyone has equal representation. However, a limitation of samples is that results are estimates, meaning they have a margin of error (Anne Conolly and Sylvie Craig, 2019).

Clearly, ideas from Mills Sociological Imagination (do correctly if its not) can be applied to the presence of obesity within the UK. Although obesity is “individual agency” (Mills, 1959), due to the individual being able to chose to eat healthy and stay active, being a “personal trouble” due to the individual being capable of solving the matter. It is argued that it intersects with the idea of “structure” and “public issues” (Mills, 1959), not just individual agency alone, structure and agency are linked with one another and cannot be separated. The data shows obesity is more prevalent in deprived locations, this indicates that one’s position within society can prevent them from making healthy choices, creating a “public issue”. In deprived areas there may be a lack of shops where nutritious, fresh produce available or, if accessible, healthier options may be unaffordable. Areas may lack safe areas to exercise and gym memberships may be unaffordable or not realistically fit with commitments such as family and work responsibilities. Showing the structure of society needs to change for these “public issues” (Mills, 1959) to be resolved, such as intervention schemes being introduced. The trend in the data shows that women are more likely to be obese than men, showing that factors which are out of an individual’s control such as gender can increase the chances of obesity, this is due to the female body containing a larger percent of body fat than men.

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Sociological Imagination And Obesity. (2022, Jun 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved November 30, 2023, from
“Sociological Imagination And Obesity.” Edubirdie, 09 Jun. 2022,
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Sociological Imagination And Obesity [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 09 [cited 2023 Nov 30]. Available from:
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