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Time Discounting and the Body Mass Index

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  • Borghans,Lex
  • Golsteyn,Bart H.H.

    (ROA rm)

Abstract

In many Western countries, the relative weight of people – measured by the Body Mass Index (BMI) – has increased substantially in recent years, leading to an increasing incidence of overweight and related health problems. As with many forms of risky behavior, it is plausible that overweight is related to the individual discount rate. Increases in credit card debts, the rise in gambling and the development of a more hedonic life style, suggest that the average discount rate has increased over time. This increase may have been the cause of the increase in BMI. Applying a large set of indicators for the individual discount rate, this paper analyzes whether changes in time discounting can account for differences in body mass between individuals at a given point in time and whether changes in the average individual discount rate can explain the remarkable increase in BMI experienced in recent years. We find some evidence for a link between time discounting and differences in BMI between people, but this relationship depends strongly on the choice of the proxy for the discount rate. Giving our hypothesis the best chance, we analyze the development of the time discounting proxies that are most strongly related to BMI. We find no evidence for a change of these proxies over time. Our main conclusion therefore is that overweight might be related to the way people discount future health benefits, but the increase in BMI has to be explained by shifts in other parameters that determine the intertemporal decisions regarding the trade-off of current and future health and satisfaction.

Suggested Citation

  • Borghans,Lex & Golsteyn,Bart H.H., 2005. "Time Discounting and the Body Mass Index," ROA Research Memorandum 006, Maastricht University, Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA).
  • Handle: RePEc:unm:umaror:2005006
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    Cited by:

    1. Shinsuke Ikeda & Kang Myong-Il & Fumio Ohtake, 2009. "Fat Debtors: Time Discounting, Its Anomalies, and Body Mass Index," ISER Discussion Paper 0732, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University.
    2. Liam Delaney & Colm Harmon & Patrick Wall, 2008. "Behavioral Economics And Drinking Behavior: Preliminary Results From An Irish College Study," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 46(1), pages 29-36, January.
    3. Golsteyn, B.H.H. & Grönqvist, H. & Lindahl, L., 2013. "Time preferences and lifetime outcomes," ROA Research Memorandum 019, Maastricht University, Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA).
    4. Beraldo, Sergio & Caruso, Raul & Turati, Gilberto, 2013. "Life is now! Time preferences and crime: Aggregate evidence from the Italian regions," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 73-81.
    5. Wölbert, E.M. & Riedl, A.M., 2013. "Measuring time and risk preferences: Reliability, stability, domain specificity," Research Memorandum 041, Maastricht University, Graduate School of Business and Economics (GSBE).
    6. J. Ignacio Garcia-Perez & Juan F. Jimeno, 2007. "Public Sector Wage Gaps In Spanish Regions," Manchester School, University of Manchester, vol. 75(4), pages 501-531, July.
    7. Baum II, Charles L. & Ruhm, Christopher J., 2009. "Age, socioeconomic status and obesity growth," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 635-648, May.
    8. Brunello, Giorgio & D'Hombres, Beatrice, 2007. "Does body weight affect wages?: Evidence from Europe," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 5(1), pages 1-19, March.
    9. Myong-Il Kang & Shinsuke Ikeda, 2010. "Time Discounting and Smoking Behavior under Tax Hikes," ISER Discussion Paper 0782, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University.
    10. Sergio Beraldo & Raul Caruso & Gilberto Turati, 2012. "Life is Now! Time Discounting and Crime: Aggregate Evidence from the Italian Regions (2002-2007)," Working papers 013, Department of Economics and Statistics (Dipartimento di Scienze Economico-Sociali e Matematico-Statistiche), University of Torino.
    11. Yang, Muzhe & Huang, Rui, 2010. "Exposure to Obesity and Weight Gain among Adolescents," Research Reports 149944, University of Connecticut, Food Marketing Policy Center.
    12. Cavaco, Sandra & Eriksson, Tor & Skalli, Ali, 2011. "Life Cycle Development of Obesity and Its Determinants," Working Papers 11-7, University of Aarhus, Aarhus School of Business, Department of Economics.

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    Keywords

    education; training and the labour market;

    JEL classification:

    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health

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