Weight loss and weight gain within two English prisons

  • Khurshid Mohammand Choudhry

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The aim of this thesis was to investigate obesity and weight change in two English prisons using both qualitative and quantitative methods. The research incorporated the first study to assess UK male prisoners’ weight change during imprisonment, as well as the first study to take into consideration factors associated with weight change specific to the prison setting. Data collection, for both qualitative and quantitative components of the study, started in May 2013 and ceased in November 2015.
Qualitative interviews were undertaken with prison nurses (17 interviewees) and prisoners (19 interviewees) to obtain an understanding of how imprisonment and the prison setting can influence a prisoner’s weight. These interviews showed similar findings with both groups identifying food and physical activity as important factors that might influence a prisoner’s weight. These opinions were similar to views that might be expressed in a community setting. However, in addition, both groups identified how imprisonment and the prison environment created a unique setting for weight management. These contextual factors influenced health related behaviours and provided a greater understanding of the determinants of prisoners’ health. Power was a key theme, shown to exist in many different forms and having a positive and negative influence on prisoners’ health related behaviours. These were shown to be influenced by three main sources of power: the prison, other prisoners and impact of the outside world. Time, in various forms, was also found to play an important role in dictating prisoners’ health-related behaviours.
The quantitative study demonstrated the complex relationship between imprisonment and weight and the influence of age on weight change. Findings from the quantitative study supported the results from the two qualitative studies showing how prison culture impacted on weight and weight change. The final discussion utilises various models of embodiment, including those specific to men’s health, to understand the results of this research project. The final conclusion challenges some commonly held perceptions of prisoners’ health related behaviour and provides a theoretical model that could be developed to provide more appropriate care for prisoners in the future.
Date of Award2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorDavid Armstrong (Supervisor) & Alexandru Dregan (Supervisor)

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