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Time Discounting and the Body Mass Index

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Author Info

  • Borghans, Lex

    ()
    (Maastricht University)

  • Golsteyn, Bart H.H.

    ()
    (Maastricht University)

Abstract

In many Western countries, the relative weight of people - measured by the Body Mass Index (BMI) - has increased substantially in recent years, leading to an increasing incidence of overweight and related health problems. As with many forms of risky behavior, it is plausible that overweight is related to the individual discount rate. Increases in credit card debts, the rise in gambling and the development of a more hedonic life style, suggest that the average discount rate has increased over time. This increase may have been the cause of the increase in BMI. Applying a large set of indicators for the individual discount rate, this paper analyzes whether changes in time discounting can account for differences in body mass between individuals at a given point in time and whether changes in the average individual discount rate can explain the remarkable increase in BMI experienced in recent years. We find some evidence for a link between time discounting and differences in BMI between people, but this relationship depends strongly on the choice of the proxy for the discount rate. Giving our hypothesis the best chance, we analyze the development of the time discounting proxies that are most strongly related to BMI. We find no evidence for a change of these proxies over time. Our main conclusion therefore is that overweight might be related to the way people discount future health benefits, but the increase in BMI has to be explained by shifts in other parameters that determine the intertemporal decisions regarding the trade-off of current and future health and satisfaction.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 1597.

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Length: 46 pages
Date of creation: May 2005
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Economics and Human Biology, 2006, 4(1), 39-61
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp1597

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Keywords: time discounting; body mass index (BMI); risky behavior;

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References

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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Charles L. Baum II & Christopher J. Ruhm, 2007. "Age, Socioeconomic Status and Obesity Growth," NBER Working Papers 13289, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Cavaco, Sandra & Eriksson, Tor & Skalli, Ali, 2011. "Life Cycle Development of Obesity and Its Determinants," Working Papers, University of Aarhus, Aarhus School of Business, Department of Economics 11-7, University of Aarhus, Aarhus School of Business, Department of Economics.
  3. Shinsuke Ikeda & Kang Myong-Il & Fumio Ohtake, 2009. "Fat Debtors: Time Discounting, Its Anomalies, and Body Mass Index," ISER Discussion Paper, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University 0732, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University.
  4. Golsteyn, Bart H.H. & Grönqvist, Hans & Lindahl, Lena, 2013. "Time Preferences and Lifetime Outcomes," IZA Discussion Papers 7165, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Giorgio Brunello & Beatrice d'Hombres, 2006. "Does Body Weight affect Wages? Evidence from Europe," "Marco Fanno" Working Papers, Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche "Marco Fanno" 0027, Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche "Marco Fanno".
  6. Beraldo, Sergio & Caruso, Raul & Turati, Gilberto, 2013. "Life is now! Time Preferences and Crime: Aggregate Evidence from the Italian Regions," MPRA Paper 49865, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  7. Sergio Beraldo & Raul Caruso & Gilberto Turati, 2012. "Life is Now! Time Discounting and Crime: Aggregate Evidence from the Italian Regions (2002-2007)," Working papers, Department of Economics and Statistics (Dipartimento di Scienze Economico-Sociali e Matematico-Statistiche), University of Torino 013, Department of Economics and Statistics (Dipartimento di Scienze Economico-Sociali e Matematico-Statistiche), University of Torino.
  8. Myong-Il Kang & Shinsuke Ikeda, 2010. "Time Discounting and Smoking Behavior under Tax Hikes," ISER Discussion Paper, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University 0782, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University.
  9. Eva Wölbert & Arno Riedl, 2013. "Measuring Time and Risk Preferences: Realiability, Stability, Domain Specificity," CESifo Working Paper Series 4339, CESifo Group Munich.
  10. Stutzer, Alois, 2007. "Limited Self-Control, Obesity and the Loss of Happiness," IZA Discussion Papers 2925, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  11. Yang, Muzhe & Huang, Rui, 2010. "Exposure to Obesity and Weight Gain among Adolescents," Research Reports, University of Connecticut, Food Marketing Policy Center 149944, University of Connecticut, Food Marketing Policy Center.

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