Has Less Housework Caused Obesity In Women?


According to a recent study by the World Health Organization, the largest number of overweight or obese people currently reside in the United States, making it the most obese nation in the world. Increased sedentary behavior, the prevalence of novel food additives and poor genetics have all led to a huge (pardon the pun) spike in America’s obesity rates over the past decade, which are now nearing epidemic levels.

While men have grown the most rotund (almost 70% are overweight or obese), women have certainly swelled as well. The Kaiser Foundation estimates that 56.6% of American women were overweight or obese as of 2011, a sharp rise from decades past.

In Alabama, 71.4% of males are overweight or obese while 62.3% of women fall under the same category. Alabama women come in as the fourth most overweight or obese in the nation, with West Virginia, Mississippi and Louisiana topping the scales (punny? yes, no, maybe) as the most obese states, relative to females.

So why has the battle of the bulge become such a large (another bad pun) problem amongst women?

Some suggest, as the title of this post indicates, that it has to do with the drastic reduction in time spent on housework.

A recent University of South Carolina study, determined that the time women (aged 19 to 64) spent on housework decreased from 25.7 hours per week in 1965 to only 13.3 hours per week in 2010. By their estimation, that translates to a reduction in caloric expenditure of about 1,857 calories per week.

Over the same period, the researchers found that the time women spent on leisure time physical activity (exercise) increased, but the change wasn’t nearly enough to account for the energy expenditure deficit from diminished housework time.

Moreover, they found that women spent an average of 8.2 hours of additional time each week watching television and using computers compared to 1965.

While the authors didn’t seem to take into account the caloric expenditure from office work and other sedentary activities that may have displaced housework – as the overall obesity epidemic in both men and women is infinitely more nuanced – the studies do indicate that women may need to put down the computer and pick up a broom or mop every once in awhile if they want to avoid looking like this:



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