Essay: Obesity in Holland

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  • Subject area(s): Medicine essays
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As could be expected with such a vast physical separation and greatly differing histories, the cultures and traditions held dear by the Dutch people are strikingly different to those of the Australians. While both nations do indeed share particular traits and have numerable similarities in terms of democratic system, life expectancy, unemployment rates and population (The World Factbook, 2015), it cannot be ignored that The Netherlands and Australia are dramatically different countries geographically and — perhaps therefore — culturally. This study seeks to identify and discuss the factors that contribute to obesity in both societies, and to ultimately answer one main question that stems from the comparison of both nations’ obesity rates: What are the cultural reasons for such a high inconsistency in the obesity rate of the two MDC countries? Furthermore, why is there such a difference in the obesogenic environments that citizens from each country are exposed to?

This study examines the above questions in an objective manner, all the while supporting the hypothesis that the daily life and routine of a Dutch person is the main factor in stemming the rapid rise of obesogenic behaviour. In correlation with this, the hypothesis follows the prediction that Australians are living in an ever-increasing obesogenic atmosphere, thus contributing to the rising obesity rates that are not seen as dramatically in The Netherlands.

For the sake of both measurability and definition, this paper is researching ‘obesity’ as the state in which one registers a Body Mass Index of equal to or greater than 30.0. The Body Mass Index is measured as follows, according to the US Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity (May 15, 2015, para. 2):

Weight (kg)/height (m)^2 = BMI.

Additionally, another term that must be defined is the theory of a ‘cultural catalyst’. A catalyst is defined by the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary (Oxford University Press, 2015) as “a person or thing that causes a change”. Therefore, in this study, the term ‘cultural catalyst’ refers to an aspect of culture that has a changing effect on the obesity rate. In relation to this, the term ‘obesogenic environment’ simply refers to an environment that directs inhabitants towards behaviour that can contribute to obesity (Australian National Preventative Health Agency, April 2014, 18).

The hypothesis that the obesity gap between the two countries is a result of both the Dutch culture and Australia’s obesogenic environment is investigated in the following pages.


The methods undertaken to reach the conclusion of this paper are entirely qualitative. Qualitative researching methods refer to the fact that the information that is being used has come from ‘desk research’; articles and theses from other authors provide the facts to be stated in the results section, and the deductions drawn in the analysis section are then created first-hand. In order to answer the research question and identify the cultural catalysts contributing to the obesity rates of the Netherlands compared with those of Australia, a series of reliable sources that provided the relevant information have been accumulated. …

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