ISSN 2632-9808 (online)

Obesity Abstracts (2019) 1 P57 | DOI: 10.1530/obabs.01.P57

Perceived role of the environment in causing obesity and support for government policies to tackle obesity: A systematic review with meta-analysis

James Reynolds1, Milica Vasiljevic2, Mark Pilling1 & Theresa Marteau1


1University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK; 2Durham University, Durham, UK.


Background: There is currently low public support for a number of policies to tackle obesity. Some studies suggest that this low support is underpinned by the belief that the environment does not play a role in obesity. A failure to replicate these studies has led to uncertainty about whether changing this causal belief could increase public support. The current review is the first systematic synthesis of this evidence.

Methods: Five databases were searched: PsycInfo, Medline, Web of Science, Scopus, and Open Grey. Eligible studies were randomised controlled experiments that included an intervention group that provided information about the environment’s role in obesity and measured support for policies to tackle obesity. The protocol was prospectively registered on Prospero (CRD: CRD42018099764). From 11,753 abstracts examined, 20 eligible studies were found (N=8781 participants).

Results: Random effects meta-analyses showed that communicating messages containing information about the environment’s role in obesity had no meaningful effect on support for obesity policies when compared to a control group (SMD =0.03, 95% CI [−0.02, 0.08], P=0.206). A further meta-analysis showed that these same messages did not change the belief that the environment causes obesity (SMD =0.01, 95% CI [−0.08, 0.09], P=0.829).

Discussion: Communicating information about the environment’s role in obesity has no meaningful effect on the public’s support for policies to tackle obesity. Given the messages used in these studies did not change the target belief, it remains unknown whether there is a causal relationship between this belief and support for policies to tackle obesity.

Key words: Causal beliefs, attribution, obesity, policy, attitudes

Disclosure: The study investigators have no known conflicts of interest to declare.

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