Many Americans don’t quite understand the full long-term consequences of obesity, according to results from the The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey. A surprising number aren’t fully aware of how many chronic diseases and conditions are associated with being obese.

The survey involved questioning more than 1,000 adults about their opinion on obesity and the health issues that are associated with it.

The majority of the public believes obesity to be the second most serious health issue in the country, after cancer. Most are aware of the link between obesity and diabetes and heart disease, yet only five percent of the participants realized it can lead to the development of cancers and respiratory problems.

When asked whether the participants believed their weight might be considered normal, around half said yes. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly two thirds of American adults are either overweight or obese. This means that a majority of people are probably not completely aware of their own physical health.

Trevor Tompson, director of the AP-NORC Center, said:

“The American public has clearly gotten the message about obesity as a major public health issue, including its connection to other major health problems. What is less clear is consensus about how to address the issue and a surprising number of overweight people who are not told by their physicians that it is an issue that needs attention.”

Eighty percent of the public believes that too much time spent on the computer or watching TV is one of the major causes of obesity, as well as having cheap and easy access to fattening and unhealthy foods.

In fact this has already been proved to a certain extent, a study published in Pediatric Obesity by researchers from the University of Alberta concluded that children with electronic devices in their bedroom, such as televisions or computers are at a much higher risk of becoming obese compared to those who don’t.

In order to tackle the country’s ever-growing obesity problem, the general consensus was that the government needs to implement more preventative measures, such as encouraging schools to increase the number of hours a week spent doing physical activities and providing healthier food options.A study published in The Lancet Obesity Series directly addressed this issue and suggested a series of sustained interventions that national governments should lead.

Written by Joseph Nordqvist