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Title: Applying evolutionary principles to the obesity problem and other issues in public health
Author: Russell, S. J.
ISNI:       0000 0004 6496 663X
Awarding Body: Liverpool John Moores University
Current Institution: Liverpool John Moores University
Date of Award: 2017
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Obesity is a complex condition that affects all age groups and socioeconomic strata and places significant burdens on health and social care systems in both developed and developing countries. Overeating and a lack of exercise, along with smoking and high alcohol use, are the most common causes of non-communicable diseases, which account for almost two-thirds of global deaths each year. This programme of PhD research aimed to better understand dietary and other health risk behaviours by considering the influence of evolutionary behavioural strategies, while controlling for other determinants of health risk behaviours, including childhood experience and socioeconomic variables. In the first study, young adults (n=393; aged 18-30 years) completed a bespoke self-report questionnaire and provided data on their developmental experiences and their socioeconomic environments, in addition to a range of behavioural choices and evolutionary strategies (e.g. reproductive behaviour). In the second study, a secondary analysis of the second iteration of the North West Mental Well-being Survey (NWMWBS) 2012/13 was undertaken to supplement findings from study 1. These studies were analysed using regression analysis and Latent Class Analysis. Across both studies, there was a clustering of risk behaviours. Adverse childhood experiences and lower socioeconomic status were found to be predictive of health risk behaviours, including unhealthy eating, binge drinking and smoking cigarettes. Various evolutionary behavioural strategies were found to be predictive of health risk behaviours. Reproductive strategy was found to be predictive of BMI; health offsetting was found to be predictive of risky eating behaviour and physical activity; investing behaviour was found to be predictive of BMI, general health risk taking, binge drinking, current daily smoking, and violence; altruism was found to be predictive of eating preference; trust was found to be predictive of general health risk taking, current daily smoking, and physical activity; cooperation was found to be predictive of current daily smoking; and, planning behaviour was found to be predictive of current daily smoking, and risky sexual practices. Overall, the research suggests that childhood experiences and socioeconomic inequality are key determinants of behavioural strategies, and that such strategies are likely to be adaptive.
Supervisor: Sumnall, H. ; McVeigh, J. ; Leavey, C. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: TX341 Nutrition. Foods and food supply ; RA Public aspects of medicine ; RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine