The Impact of Child Obesity News on Household Food Expenditure in the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom (UK) has one of the highest obesity levels in the world (Mazzocchi et al., 2009). As indicated by the National Health Service (2010), 25% of adults and 17% of children are obese in the UK. This last statistic represents an increase of four points in comparison to 1995. The Government Office for Science (2010) estimated that by 2050, half of the UK population would be obese, with a consequent direct annual cost of £10 billion and an indirect annual cost of £50 billion at today’s prices. This research aims to contribute to the debate on how health-related information impacts household food expenditure and whether this impact varies across income groups and household composition. This study specifically measures the impact of child obesity news on household food expenditure in the UK. To this end, the study calculated a set of elasticities for different income groups (high vs. low) and family composition (families with and without children). This set of elasticities gives us a measure of responsiveness, to change in terms of price, income and news. The results indicate that child obesity news causes different impacts on households according to their income level and household composition. Low-income households without children are not significantly impacted by child obesity news. Low-income households with children change their food expenditure composition to a healthier diet without changing the overall food expenditure. High-income households without children decrease their overall food expenditure, mainly changing red meat for dairy products. Finally, high-income households with children increase their overall food expenditure and move on to a healthier diet. Therefore, in three out of four household cases, child obesity news causes a different and positive impact on diet. Low-income households with children in default-mode spend the smallest proportion of their income on fruit and vegetables; which is even less than low-income households without children. More importantly, low-income households with children influence the nutritional habits of their children. This research shows that low-income households with children respond to child obesity news and move on to a healthier diet without causing undesirable income redistribution.
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