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Cross-Country Variation in Obesity Patterns among Older Americans and Europeans

  • Pierre-Carl Michaud
  • Arthur van Soest
  • Tatiana Andreyeva

While the fraction of obese people is not as large in Europe as in the United States, obesity is becoming an important issue in Europe as well. Using comparable data from the Survey of Health, Aging and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) and the Health and Retirement Study in the U.S. (HRS), we analyze the correlates of obesity in the population ages 50 and above, focusing on measures of energy intake and expenditure as well as socio-economic status. Our main results are as follows: 1) Obesity rates differ substantially on both sides of the Atlantic and across European countries, with most of the difference coming from the right tail of the weight distribution. 2) Part of the difference in obesity prevalence between the U.S. and Europe is explained by a higher fraction of food eaten away from home and notably lower time devoted to cooking in the U.S. 3) Sedentary lifestyle or a lack of vigorous and moderate physical activity may also explain a substantial share of the cross-country differences. 4) Differential SES patterns of energy intake and expenditure across countries cannot fully account for the observed cross-country variation in the SES gradient in obesity.

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Paper provided by McMaster University in its series Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers with number 185.

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Length: 42 pages
Date of creation: May 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mcm:sedapp:185
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  1. John Cawley & Richard V. Burkhauser, 2006. "Beyond BMI: The Value of More Accurate Measures of Fatness and Obesity in Social Science Research," NBER Working Papers 12291, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Tatiana Andreyeva & Pierre-Carl Michaud & Arthur van Soest, 2005. "Obesity and Health in Europeans Ages 50 and Above," Working Papers 331, RAND Corporation Publications Department.
  3. Darius Lakdawalla & Tomas Philipson, 2002. "The Growth of Obesity and Technological Change: A Theoretical and Empirical Examination," NBER Working Papers 8946, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. 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.
  5. Anna Sanz De Galdeano, 2005. "The Obesity Epidemic in Europe," CSEF Working Papers 143, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
  6. repec:ner:tilbur:urn:nbn:nl:ui:12-355918 is not listed on IDEAS
  7. Chou, Shin-Yi & Grossman, Michael & Saffer, Henry, 2004. "An economic analysis of adult obesity: results from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 565-587, May.
  8. Agar Brugiavini & Tullio Jappelli & Guglielmo Weber, 2002. "The Survey on Health, Aging and Wealth," CSEF Working Papers 86, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
  9. Sara Bleich & David Cutler & Christopher Murray & Alyce Adams, 2007. "Why Is The Developed World Obese?," NBER Working Papers 12954, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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