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Longer Hours and Larger Waistlines? The Relationship between Work Hours and Obesity


  • Courtemanche Charles

    () (University of North Carolina at Greensboro)


Additional work hours may lead to weight gain by decreasing exercise, causing substitution from meals prepared at home to fast food and pre-prepared processed food, or reducing sleep. Substitution toward unhealthy convenience foods could also influence the weight of one's spouse and children, while longer work hours for adults may further impact child weight by reducing parental supervision. I examine the effects of adult work hours on the body mass index (BMI) and obesity status of adults as well as the overweight status of children. Longer hours increase one's own BMI and probability of being obese, but have a smaller and statistically insignificant effect on these outcomes for one's spouse. Mothers', but not mother's spouse's, work hours affect children's probability of being overweight. My estimates imply that changes in labor force participation account for only 1.4% of the rise in adult obesity in recent decades, but a more substantial 10.4% of the growth in childhood overweight.

Suggested Citation

  • Courtemanche Charles, 2009. "Longer Hours and Larger Waistlines? The Relationship between Work Hours and Obesity," Forum for Health Economics & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 12(2), pages 1-33, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:fhecpo:v:12:y:2009:i:2:n:2

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    Cited by:

    1. John Gathergood & Eleonora Fichera, "undated". "House Prices, Home Equity and Health," Discussion Papers 12/07, University of Nottingham, School of Economics.
    2. Courtemanche, Charles & Tchernis, Rusty & Zhou, Xilin, 2017. "Parental Work Hours and Childhood Obesity: Evidence Using Instrumental Variables Related to Sibling School Eligibility," IZA Discussion Papers 10739, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Gregory Colman & Dhaval Dave, 2014. "Unemployment and Health Behaviors Over the Business Cycle: a Longitudinal View," NBER Working Papers 20748, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Burkhauser, Richard V. & Cawley, John & Schmeiser, Maximilian D., 2009. "The timing of the rise in U.S. obesity varies with measure of fatness," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 307-318, December.
    5. Cawley, John & Liu, Feng, 2012. "Maternal employment and childhood obesity: A search for mechanisms in time use data," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 10(4), pages 352-364.
    6. Herbst, Chris M. & Tekin, Erdal, 2012. "The geographic accessibility of child care subsidies and evidence on the impact of subsidy receipt on childhood obesity," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(1), pages 37-52.
    7. Jamie Spinney & Hugh Millward, 2010. "Time and Money: A New Look at Poverty and the Barriers to Physical Activity in Canada," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 99(2), pages 341-356, November.
    8. Garth Heutel & Christopher J. Ruhm, 2016. "Air Pollution and Procyclical Mortality," Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(3), pages 667-706.
    9. Mercan, Murat A., 2016. "How May Working Hours and Occupations Affect Arthritis? Results from a Nationally Representative Dataset," MPRA Paper 75228, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. Christopher J. Ruhm, 2012. "Understanding the Relationship between Macroeconomic Conditions and Health," Chapters,in: The Elgar Companion to Health Economics, Second Edition, chapter 1 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    11. Maclean, Johanna Catherine, 2013. "The health effects of leaving school in a bad economy," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(5), pages 951-964.
    12. Rafael Moreira Claro & Vargas Hernandez & Joel Alberto & Satoru Shimokawa & Euna Han & Sharada Keats & Steve Wiggins, 2015. "The Rising Cost of a Healthy Diet – Changing Relative prices of Foods in High- Income and Emerging Economies," Working Papers id:7250, eSocialSciences.
    13. Georgia S. Papoutsi & Andreas C. Drichoutis & Rodolfo M. Nayga Jr., 2013. "The Causes Of Childhood Obesity: A Survey," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 27(4), pages 743-767, September.
    14. Anderson, Patricia M., 2012. "Parental employment, family routines and childhood obesity," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 10(4), pages 340-351.
    15. Jens Bonke & Jane Greve, 2012. "Children’s health-related life-styles: how parental child care affects them," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 10(4), pages 557-572, December.
    16. Charles Courtemanche & Garth Heutel & Patrick McAlvanah, 2015. "Impatience, Incentives and Obesity," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 125(582), pages 1-31, February.
    17. Greve, Jane, 2011. "New results on the effect of maternal work hours on children's overweight status: Does the quality of child care matter?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(5), pages 579-590, October.
    18. Murat Anil Mercan, 2017. "The Relationship between Working Hours and Mortality in the United States," Working Papers 2017-01, Gebze Technical University, Department of Economics.
    19. Lorenz, Olga & Goerke, Laszlo, 2016. "“Is your commute really making you fat?”: The causal effect of commuting distance on height-adjusted weight," Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change 145569, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.

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    JEL classification:

    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General


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