What are potential negative impacts of culture on people's health?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Many aspects of cultural traditions affect our health. Perhaps the most significant ones are related to food. In many cultures, lavish meals are signs of wealth and hospitality. While these made sense as traditions in early societies in which people normally got large amounts of exercise, in modern society, where obesity is more likely to be an issue than starvation, the tradition of connecting large amounts of food to community well-being can be harmful.

Religious choices also affect eating habits and health. Many religious traditions, such as Buddhism and the Seventh Day Adventists, emphasize abstaining from meat as a spiritual practice, a practice that also helps improve cardiovascular health. Religions that forbid smoking, such as the Church of the Latter Day Saints, also make a positive contribution to their members' health.

The cultural tradition in modern societies which values extreme thinness as depicted in fashion magazines can lead to eating disorders, but the African societies that consider obesity desirable in women can also harm their health.