Date of Award


Document Type

Union College Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Younghwan Song




obesity, foods, activity, adults, americans


Obesity is a global epidemic unique to the 21st century. Obesity rates in the United States continue to rise at an alarming rate and so do the health care costs associated with treating obesity related illnesses. Using the 2007 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), this paper investigates the effects of an adult’s external environment and personal choices on their Body Mass Index (BMI). Energy dense foods that are high in sugar and fat are in abundant supply to U.S. citizens in cafeterias, convenience stores, and cost-effective fast-food restaurants. Adults typically choose to eat higher calorie foods over fruits and vegetables. This paper finds that adults who consume fruits daily are less likely to be obese. Intake of these foods is controllable and seen as a major cause of the obesity epidemic in the United States. In turn, many policy makers and health experts should focus on changing the behavioral and nutritional habits in Americans to curb the rise of this chronic condition. Additionally, this study analyzes the effects of activity at work on obesity. According to the 2008 American Time Use Survey, Americans spend as much time working as they would anything else. This study finds that individuals who have a job that requires a more physically demanding form of labor and higher activity level are less likely to be obese. Therefore, the workplace is another area where policy makers can combat the rising rates of obesity.