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Over-Nutrition and Changing Health Status in High Income Countries

  • Huffman, Wallace E.
  • Huffman, Sonya K.
  • Rickertsen, Kyrre
  • Tegene, Abebayehu

As per capita incomes in developed countries have grown over the past three decades, over-nutrition leading to obesity and elevated health risks for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer has occurred. We use economic and econometric models to identify the impact of food prices on the aggregate demand for calories and the supply of health, as reflected in mortality rates. Our models are fitted to unique panel data for 18 developed countries over 1971-2001, a period when the relative price of food first rose and then declined steadily. Some findings, using de-trended data, are that a lower real price of food, of other purchased consumer goods and of time increase the demand for calories, one cause of energy imbalance, and the supply of mortality associated with obesity. These prices do not affect the rate of non-obesity-related mortality. Caloric intake is a normal good, contributing to energy imbalance as income increases, but higher incomes do reduce mortality risk. However, higher labor force participation rates, largely associated with rising numbers of working women, and a higher child dependency ratio lead to a higher rate of obesity-related mortality. An implication of our results is that further reductions in the price of food in developed countries can be expected to have a net negative impact on health as reflected in a higher mortality rate due to diseases that are linked to obesity—diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and most forms of cancer.

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Paper provided by Iowa State University, Department of Economics in its series Staff General Research Papers with number 31492.

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Date of creation: 13 May 2010
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Publication status: Published in Forum for Health Economics & Policy 2010, vol. 13 no. 1
Handle: RePEc:isu:genres:31492
Contact details of provider: Postal: Iowa State University, Dept. of Economics, 260 Heady Hall, Ames, IA 50011-1070
Phone: +1 515.294.6741
Fax: +1 515.294.0221
Web page: http://www.econ.iastate.edu
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  1. Grossman, Michael, 2000. "The human capital model," Handbook of Health Economics, in: A. J. Culyer & J. P. Newhouse (ed.), Handbook of Health Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 7, pages 347-408 Elsevier.
  2. Darius Lakdawalla & Tomas Philipson, 2002. "The Growth of Obesity and Technological Change: A Theoretical and Empirical Examination," Working Papers 0203, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
  3. J. A. Hausman, 1976. "Specification Tests in Econometrics," Working papers 185, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  4. Fred Kuchler & Abebayehu Tegene & J. Michael Harris, 2005. "Taxing Snack Foods: Manipulating Diet Quality or Financing Information Programs?," Review of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 27(1), pages 4-20.
  5. David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2003. "Why Have Americans Become More Obese?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(3), pages 93-118, Summer.
  6. Brian W. Gould, 2003. "An Empirical Assessment of Endogeneity Issues in Demand Analysis for Differentiated Products," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 85(3), pages 605-617.
  7. Alain Carpentier & Hervé Guyomard, 2001. "Unconditional Elasticities in Two-Stage Demand Systems: An Approximate Solution," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 83(1), pages 222-229.
  8. Maria L. Loureiro & Rodolfo M. Nayga, 2005. "International Dimensions of Obesity and Overweight Related Problems: An Economics Perspective," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 87(5), pages 1147-1153.
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