Hyperbolic discounting, the sign effect, and the body mass index
Analysis of a broad survey of Japanese adults confirms that time discounting relates to body weight, not only via impatience, but also via hyperbolic discounting, proxied by inclination toward procrastination, and the sign effect, where future negative payoffs are discounted at a lower rate than future positive payoffs. Body mass index is positively associated with survey responses indicative of impatience and hyperbolic discounting, and negatively associated with those indicative of the sign effect. A one-unit increase in the degree of procrastination is associated with a 2.81 percentage-point increase in the probability of being obese. Subjects exhibiting the sign effect show a 3.69 percentage-point lower probability of being obese and a 4.02 percentage-point higher probability of being underweight than those without the sign effect. These effects are substantial compared with the prevalence rates of the corresponding body mass status. Obesity and underweight thus result in part from the temporal decision biases.
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