Monday 5 October 2015

Obesity and Income

If we're tallying the social costs of obesity, what should we make of this one?
Obese men make more money than their slimmer counterparts, according to new research from the University of Otago's Christchurch Health and Development Study (CHDS).

The opposite can be said for women, with obese or overweight women earning less than women of average weight.

They were also more likely to be depressed and dissatisfied with their lives, while an obese man's mental health was generally unaffected by his girth.

The study analysed the relationship between a person's size, using their Body Mass Index (BMI), and financial aspects of their lives such as net weekly income, savings, household income. They also examined depression levels and life satisfaction.

On average, men with a BMI of more than 30 – the classification for obesity – earn $140 a week more than men with a normal BMI. Obese women earn $60 less than a woman with a "normal" BMI rating.

...The study has followed the lives of more than 1200 Canterbury children in intimate detail for 38 years. ... They decided to examine the CHDS cohort at age 30 and 35 to try and identify a link in New Zealanders.

The study found being overweight or obese was associated with poorer outcomes, but only in women, Horwood said.

"There was a clear relationship between larger men and larger weekly pay packets. But for men, being classified as overweight or obese according to the BMI Index did not negatively affect other outcomes measured in the study such as self-esteem or mental health," he said.
I've been unable to find the study referred to. The reporter says it is available in the Social Psychiatry journal, but I've been unable to find it on either the International Journal of Social Psychiatry's website, or on the "Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology" site. And I've not been able to find any journal that's just called Social Psychiatry. Not for the first time, I wish online news articles included links to cited studies.

Bigger picture, wage effects of consumption behaviour shouldn't count as any kind of external cost. They're effects born by the person undertaking the consumption and, potentially, others with whom that person is linked through a contractual nexus. If someone is less productive and he's paid less, does it matter whether it's due to drinking, obesity, or wanting to flip to part time to spend more time playing video games, or wanting to flip to part time to spend more time with the kids?

1 comment:

  1. Here's the list of publications from the CHDS team:
    Here's the link from that page to the article in question:
    McLeod GFH, Fergusson DM, Horwood, LJ, Carter, F. Adiposity and psychosocial outcomes at ages 30 and 35. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. 2015; doi: 10.1007/s00127-015-1101-7