Introduction: Defining the Process of Cause and Effect
The process of cause and effect can be described as a relationship between issues where one is the outcome of the other. The principle of causation incorporates two interdependent elements: action and reaction. When only one cause is involved, the process is called monocausation. One example of the process of cause and effect would be the impact of obesity on health. Obesity causes heart disease. Because it is identified as the most common reason that people develop this serious health problem, obesity is considered the major cause in this causation process. According to Bastien et al., obesity presents a danger to people since it leads to many negative outcomes including heart disease (369–370).
Excessive weight leads to an increase in fat cells in the body, and an increased amount of fatty and cholesterol deposits makes it more difficult for blood to reach the heart. This condition is called atherosclerosis (Bastien et al. 374). If the flow of blood becomes fully restricted, a person can have a heart attack. In such a case, the artery supplying blood to the heart muscle does not receive nutrients and oxygen, and this leads to damage to the heart’s muscle system. Therefore, obesity can be considered a severe condition, and medical specialists all over the world are working on ways to eliminate its detrimental impact. Special interventions are being developed for obese people, along with supportive and educational programs.
Monocausation versus Multicausation of Heart Disease
While obesity is considered the most common cause of heart disease, it is not the only reason why people may develop this condition. Alternative causes include smoking, high blood pressure, unhealthy diet, or family history. The danger of smoking may be manifested in several ways. First, smoking impairs the lining of the arteries. This effect is similar to that produced by obesity: fatty material builds up, and arteries become too narrow for the heart to function normally (Breitling et al. 2841–2843). Second, the carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke decreases the amount of oxygen in the blood. Third, nicotine stimulates the production of adrenaline, making the heart work harder. Finally, smokers’ blood is under threat of clotting, which increases the likelihood of stroke or heart attack.
High blood pressure (hypertension) is another serious cause of heart disease (Dickinson et al. 650–651). The damage from hypertension stems from the fact that coronary arteries gradually narrow because of cholesterol, fat, and other substances, the combination of which is referred to as plaque. Thus, it should be noted that atherosclerosis may develop not only as a result of obesity but also due to high blood pressure.
The role of diet is considered crucial in the prevention of heart disease. Therefore, an unhealthy diet is the next serious cause of this health condition (Jørgensen et al. g3617). The health of an individual who does not follow healthy eating habits is subject to significant deterioration. Eating fatty food does not present the only danger. The absence of such nutritional elements as fruit and vegetables, nuts, and fish is damaging for the organism. Apart from the impact of saturated fats, heart disease may be induced when a person consumes excessive amounts of salt or refined carbohydrates. Professionals strongly advise people with a high disposition to heart problems to reconsider their diet and make it more favorable for the organism.
In the same way, as in the development of many other diseases, family history plays a crucial role in the establishment of heart disease (Pandey et al. 285–286). People having relatives with such health problems are at a higher risk of developing heart disease. Since this condition does not depend on a person and cannot be changed, it is necessary to guard one’s health. People with a family history of heart disease should have regular check-ups, maintain a healthy weight, and refrain from smoking.
Determining the causes and effects of notions is one of the core ideas of research. Scientists explain the state of things by their causes (Babbie 69). In natural sciences, multicausation may be explained using growth. The growth of plants may be impacted by the fluctuating amount of water, light, and vitamins that they receive. Similarly, for humans, nutrients are a significant element of growth. The wish to grow or not to grow is unimportant, both for plants and humans; nutrition plays a more crucial role than the desire to grow (Babbie 69). By giving this example, Babbie demonstrates the cause-and-effect basis of natural sciences (69). The author states that a deterministic model of explanation is the most suitable for such cases.
According to Babbie, free will is restricted by specific constraints (69). Multicausation is not only scientific but also a social concept. To explain this point, Babbie describes a research study aimed at analyzing people’s disposition to being prejudiced or unprejudiced (69-70). The author remarks that it is not enough to say that people are prejudiced merely because they choose to be prejudiced. Some of the causes of biased attitudes include religious ideology, childhood experiences, economic situation, levels of education, and political views (Babbie 70). As Babbie remarks, the state of being prejudiced or unprejudiced is not a result of personal choice (70). Rather, it is caused by a variety of factors that are not dependent on a person. Therefore, in social research, multicausation is defined as a combination of effects that can be established and possibly changed, notwithstanding the person’s desire to change.
Babbie considers multicausation an “idiographic model of explanation” (71). According to the author, this model is established to explain actions or choices. An example of this idiographic model is the enumeration of causes that can lead to the initiation of war (Babbie 71). In medicine, multicausation, with the use of an idiographic model, is reflected in looking for an explanation of a patient’s abnormal conduct (Babbie 71). Although this model is frequently employed in social research, there is also another approach, called the “nomothetic model of explanation” (Babbie 72), which is also used. Unlike the idiographic model, the nomothetic approach does not incorporate enumeration of all possible reasons for actions. On the contrary, its function is to ascertain the most relevant considerations that may be employed in an analysis of events or actions (Babbie 72).
An example of nomothetic multicausation is the explanation of why people vote in a particular way in elections. This model presupposes the isolation of the “relatively few” considerations that may give a fragmentary explanation of people’s voting preferences (Babbie 72). The nomothetic model is “probabilistic” in its attitude towards causation (Babbie 72). Social research incorporates two models of causation, both of which are useful and valid. According to Babbie, the best outcomes will occur when the two approaches are used in combination (73). Scholars define three prerequisites in causal relationships. The first one is that the cause should precede the effect in the time dimension (Babbie 73). The second requirement is that there should be an empirical correlation between the two variables. The third precondition is that the correlation between cause and effect cannot be disclosed by some third variable initiating the two first variables (Babbie 74). Therefore, it is possible to explain multicausation in social research from two perspectives.
Preferred Approach: Multicausation
In my opinion, the multicausation approach is more suitable than monocausation when discussing the causes of heart disease. While obesity is considered a major factor, other causes lead to similar outcomes. Obesity is not the only factor that can lead to that artery blockage referred to as atherosclerosis. Smoking, high blood pressure, and unhealthy diet can also be identified as culprits. Therefore, it is not possible to say that obesity is a single contributor to developing heart disease. Moreover, apart from bad habits, there remains one cause that cannot be controlled and puts people under threat regardless of their food preferences. A family history raises the chances to develop heart disease, and its role in an individual’s health should not be underestimated.
The principle of causation is an inevitability in the health-care system. Every disease has a cause that leads to specific outcomes. While some health conditions can be explained with the help of monocausation, others require a multicausation approach. In the case of heart disease, several factors whose impact is almost equal can contribute to the development of the disease. Therefore, although obesity may be regarded as the main cause of heart disease, monocausation cannot be applied in this case.
Babbie, Earl. “The Nature of Causation.” The Practice of Social Research, edited by Earl Babbie, 9th ed., Wadsworth, 2001, pp. 68-83.
Bastien, Marjorie, et al. “Overview of Epidemiology and Contribution of Obesity to Cardiovascular Disease.” Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, vol. 56, 2014, pp. 369-381.
Breitling, Lutz Philipp, et al. “Smoking, F2RL3 Methylation, and Prognosis in Stable Coronary Heart Disease.” European Heart Journal, vol. 33, no. 22, 2012, pp. 2841-2848.
Dickinson, Brent, et al. “Plasma MicroRNAs Serve as Biomarkers of Therapeutic Efficacy and Disease Progression in Hypertension-Induced Heart Failure.” European Journal of Heart Failure, vol. 15, no. 6, 2013, pp. 650-659.
Jørgensen, Torben, et al. “Effect of Screening and Lifestyle Counselling on Incidence of Ischaemic Heart Disease in General Population: Inter99 Randomised Trial.” BMJ, no. 348, 2014, pp. g3617.
Pandey, Arvind, et al. “Family History of Coronary Heart Disease and Markers of Subclinical Cardiovascular Disease: Where do We Stand?” Atherosclerosis, vol. 228, 2013, pp. 285-294.