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Review 1: Obesity, Unhappiness, and The Challenge of Affluence: Theory and Evidence

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  • Andrew J. Oswald
  • Nattavudh Powdthavee

Abstract

Is affluence a good thing? The book "The Challenge of Affluence" by Avner Offer (2006) argues that economic prosperity weakens self-control and undermines human well-being. Consistent with a pessimistic view, we show that psychological distress has been rising through time in modern Great Britain. Taking over-eating as an example, our data reveal that half the British population view themselves as overweight, and that happiness and mental health are worse among fatter people in Britain and Germany. Comparisons also matter. We discuss problems of inference and argue that longitudinal data are needed. We suggest a theory of obesity imitation where utility depends on relative weight. Copyright 2007 The Author(s). Journal compilation Royal Economic Society 2007.

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  • Andrew J. Oswald & Nattavudh Powdthavee, 2007. "Review 1: Obesity, Unhappiness, and The Challenge of Affluence: Theory and Evidence," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 117(521), pages 441-454, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecj:econjl:v:117:y:2007:i:521:p:441-454
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