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More equal but heavier: A longitudinal analysis of income-related obesity inequalities in an adult Swedish cohort

Using longitudinal data over a 17 year period for a Swedish cohort aged 20-68 in 1980/81, this study analyses income-related inequalities in obesity. By use of the concentration index and decomposition techniques we answer the following questions: 1) Does obesity inequality favour or disfavour the poor? 2) What factors explain this inequality at different points in time? 3) How can the pattern of inequality over time be explained? We find that among females, inequalities in obesity favour the rich, but the estimated inequality declines over time. Income and marital status are the main driving forces behind obesity inequality, and income explains the majority of the declined obesity inequality over time. The results indicate that the main reason for the reduced obesity inequality is increased obesity prevalence, because in absolute terms obesity has increased uniformly across income groups. Thus we conclude that the reduced inequality is not due to any health policy success. Since the income elasticity of obesity is the individual most important contributor to the observed inequality, policies directed towards this factor might be the most effective. Similar trends are found for males, although less pronounced. This should be taken into account when evaluating obesity reducing policies.

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Paper provided by Lund University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 2009:3.

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Length: 36 pages
Date of creation: 09 Mar 2009
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published as Ljungvall, Åsa and Ulf-G Gerdtham, 'More equal but heavier: A longitudinal analysis of income-related obesity inequalities in an adult Swedish cohort' in Social Science and Medicine , 2010, pages 221-231.
Handle: RePEc:hhs:lunewp:2009_003
Contact details of provider: Postal: Department of Economics, School of Economics and Management, Lund University, Box 7082, S-220 07 Lund,Sweden
Phone: +46 +46 222 0000
Fax: +46 +46 2224613
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  1. Kakwani, Nanak & Wagstaff, Adam & van Doorslaer, Eddy, 1997. "Socioeconomic inequalities in health: Measurement, computation, and statistical inference," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 77(1), pages 87-103, March.
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  8. Gerdtham, Ulf-G & Johannesson, Magnus, 2002. " Do Life-Saving Regulations Save Lives?," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 24(3), pages 231-49, May.
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  10. Smith, Patricia K. & Bogin, Barry & Bishai, David, 2005. "Are time preference and body mass index associated?: Evidence from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 259-270, July.
  11. Costa-Font, Joan & Gil, Joan, 2008. "What lies behind socio-economic inequalities in obesity in Spain A decomposition approach," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 61-73, February.
  12. Islam, M. Kamrul & Merlo, Juan & Kawachi, Ichiro & Lindstr m, Martin & Burstr m, Kristina & Gerdtham, Ulf-G., 2006. "Does it really matter where you live? A panel data multilevel analysis of Swedish municipality-level social capital on individual health-related quality of life," Health Economics, Policy and Law, Cambridge University Press, vol. 1(03), pages 209-235, July.
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  14. Rajeev Goel, 2006. "Obesity: An economic and financial perspective," Journal of Economics and Finance, Springer, vol. 30(3), pages 317-324, September.
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