Medical and Social Constructionist Perspectives on Obesity and their Relevance for Social Work: Contradictory Explanations for Ever Expanding Nations?


Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Obesity receives little attention in social work literature, but it is highly relevant to social work in relation to adults and children and different client/service user groups. Obese people frequently have complex social care needs, many service user groups experience higher rates of obesity than the general population and obesity is also a potential safeguarding issue for both adults and children. This article critically evaluates medical and social constructionist approaches to obesity, within the context of a multidisciplinary life course paradigm, illuminating the importance of being cognisant of the strengths and weaknesses associated with both approaches. It therefore helps social workers to engage more critically and holistically with obesity, particularly understanding the limitations of the medical model, the influence of social divisions and inequalities, cultural issues, stigmatisation and value judgements and consequentially the importance of defending human rights and upholding social justice.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberbcz075
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Volumeadvance access
Early online date9 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jul 2019



  • inequality
  • life course
  • medical model
  • obesity
  • social constructionism

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