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Understanding overeating and obesity

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  • Ruhm, Christopher J.

Abstract

The combination of economic and biological factors is likely to result in overeating in the current environment of cheap and readily available food. This propensity is shown using a “dual decision” approach where choices reflect the interaction of a “deliberative” system, operating as in standard economic models, and an “affective” system that responds rapidly to stimuli without considering long-term consequences. This framework is characterized by excess food consumption and body weight, in that individuals prefer both ex-ante and ex-post to eat and weigh less than they actually do, with weight loss attempts being common but often unsuccessful or only partially successful. As in the standard model, weight is related to prices. However, another potentially important reason for rising obesity is that food producers have incentives to engineer products to stimulate the affective system so as to encourage overeating. Data from several sources are used to investigate predictions of the dual decision model, with the evidence providing broad support for at least some irrationality in food consumption. Most importantly, there is little indication that the large secular increases in body mass index have been accompanied by corresponding growth in utility-maximizing weight. One result is that efforts to reduce weight have become more common as obesity has increased.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Health Economics.

Volume (Year): 31 (2012)
Issue (Month): 6 ()
Pages: 781-796

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jhecon:v:31:y:2012:i:6:p:781-796

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505560

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Keywords: Overeating; Obesity; BMI; Behavioral economics; Irrationality;

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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Strulik, Holger, 2014. "A mass phenomenon: The social evolution of obesity," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 113-125.
  2. Garth Heutel, 2011. "Optimal Policy Instruments for Externality-Producing Durable Goods Under Time Inconsistency," NBER Working Papers 17083, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Charles J. Courtemanche & Garth Heutel & Patrick McAlvanah, 2011. "Impatience, Incentives, and Obesity," NBER Working Papers 17483, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Vani S. Kulkarni & Veena S. Kulkarni & Raghav Gaiha, 2013. "Double burden of malnutrition: Why are Indian women likely to be underweight and obese?," Brooks World Poverty Institute Working Paper Series 19013, BWPI, The University of Manchester.
  5. Guilhem Lecouteux, 2013. "Reconciling behavioural and neoclassical economics," Working Papers hal-00819763, HAL.
  6. Dhaval M. Dave & Inas Rashad Kelly, 2010. "How Does the Business Cycle Affect Eating Habits?," NBER Working Papers 16638, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Colin Baker & Ralph Bradley, 2013. "The Simultaneous Effects of Obesity, Insurance Choice, and Medical Visit Choice on Healthcare Costs," NBER Chapters, in: Measuring and Modeling Health Care Costs National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Ljungvall, Åsa, 2013. "The Freer the Fatter? A Panel Study of the Relationship between Body-Mass Index and Economic Freedom," Working Papers 2013:23, Lund University, Department of Economics.
  9. Augurzky, Boris & Bauer, Thomas K. & Reichert, Arndt R. & Schmidt, Christoph M. & Tauchmann, Harald, 2012. "Does Money Burn Fat? Evidence from a Randomized Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 6888, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

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