IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Obesity, Unhappiness, and The Challenge of Affluence : Theory and Evidence

  • Oswald, Andrew J

    (Department of Economics, University of Warwick)

  • Powdthavee, Nattavudh

    (Institute of Education, University of London)

Is affluence a good thing? The book The Challenge of Affluence by Avner Offer (2006) argues that economic prosperity weakens self-control and undermines human well-being. Consistent with a pessimistic view, we show that psychological distress has been rising through time in modern Great Britain. Taking over-eating as an example, our data reveal that half the British population view themselves as overweight, and that happiness and mental health are worse among fatter people in both Britain and Germany. A 10-point move up in body mass index (BMI) is associated in the cross-section with a drop in psychological health of approximately 0.3 GHQ points. Comparisons also matter. For a given level of BMI, we find that people who are educated or who have high income are more likely to view themselves as overweight. We discuss problems of inference and argue that longitudinal data on BMI are needed. We suggest a theory of imitation -- where utility depends on relative weight -- in which there can be obesity spirals after only small drops in the price of food.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/research/workingpapers/2008/twerp_793.pdf
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by University of Warwick, Department of Economics in its series The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) with number 793.

as
in new window

Length: 21 pages
Date of creation: 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wrk:warwec:793
Contact details of provider: Postal: CV4 7AL COVENTRY
Phone: +44 (0) 2476 523202
Fax: +44 (0) 2476 523032
Web page: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Gardner, Jonathan & Oswald, Andrew J., 2007. "Money and mental wellbeing: A longitudinal study of medium-sized lottery wins," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 49-60, January.
  2. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2004. "Well-being over time in Britain and the USA," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(7-8), pages 1359-1386, July.
  3. DiTella, Rafael & MacCulloch, Robert & Oswald, Andrew J., 2001. "Preferences over inflation and unemployment: Evidence from surveys of happiness," ZEI Working Papers B 03-2001, ZEI - Center for European Integration Studies, University of Bonn.
  4. Jonathan Gardner & Andrew J. Oswald, 2006. "Do divorcing couples become happier by breaking up?," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 169(2), pages 319-336.
  5. Andrew E. Clark, 2003. "Unemployment as a Social Norm: Psychological Evidence from Panel Data," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(2), pages 289-322, April.
  6. Frey, Bruno S & Stutzer, Alois, 2000. "Happiness, Economy and Institutions," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(466), pages 918-38, October.
  7. Burke & Heiland, 2007. "Social Dynamics Of Obesity," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 45(3), pages 571-591, 07.
  8. Luttmer, Erzo F. P., 2004. "Neighbors as Negatives: Relative Earnings and Well-Being," Working Paper Series rwp04-029, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  9. Ed Hopkins & Tatiana Kornienko, 2004. "Running to Keep in the Same Place: Consumer Choice as a Game of Status," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 1085-1107, September.
  10. Brown, Gordon D. A. & Gardner, Jonathan & Oswald, Andrew J. & Qian, Jing, 2005. "Does Wage Rank Affect Employees' Wellbeing?," IZA Discussion Papers 1505, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  11. Clark, Andrew E. & Oswald, Andrew J., 1996. "Satisfaction and comparison income," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(3), pages 359-381, September.
  12. Jay Bhattacharya & M. Kate Bundorf, 2005. "The Incidence of the Healthcare Costs of Obesity," NBER Working Papers 11303, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Banks, James & Marmot, Michael & Oldfield, Zoë & Smith, James P., 2007. "The SES Health Gradient on Both Sides of the Atlantic," IZA Discussion Papers 2539, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  14. Oswald, Andrew J., 1983. "Altruism, jealousy and the theory of optimal non-linear taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 77-87, February.
  15. Jonathan Gruber & Michael Frakes, 2005. "Does Falling Smoking Lead to Rising Obesity?," NBER Working Papers 11483, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Nattavudh Powdthavee, 2003. "Unhappiness and Crime: Evidence from South Africa," Development and Comp Systems 0310003, EconWPA, revised 17 Mar 2004.
  17. Clark, Andrew E & Oswald, Andrew J, 1994. "Unhappiness and Unemployment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(424), pages 648-59, May.
  18. Shapiro, Jesse & Glaeser, Edward & Cutler, David, 2003. "Why Have Americans Become More Obese," Scholarly Articles 2640583, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  19. Oswald, A.J., 1997. "Happiness and Economic Performance," Papers 18, Centre for Economic Performance & Institute of Economics.
  20. Gruber, Jonathan & Frakes, Michael, 2006. "Does falling smoking lead to rising obesity?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(2), pages 183-197, March.
  21. Oswald, Andrew J. & Powdthavee, Nattavudh, 2008. "Does happiness adapt? A longitudinal study of disability with implications for economists and judges," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(5-6), pages 1061-1077, June.
  22. Richard V. Burkhauser & John Cawley, 2004. "Obesity, Disability, and Movement Onto the Disability Insurance Rolls," Working Papers wp089, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  23. 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.
  24. Offer, Avner, 2007. "The Challenge of Affluence: Self-Control and Well-Being in the United States and Britain since 1950," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199216628, March.
  25. Christopher J. Ruhm, 2003. "Healthy Living in Hard Times," NBER Working Papers 9468, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  26. Morris, Stephen, 2006. "Body mass index and occupational attainment," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(2), pages 347-364, March.
  27. Clark, Andrew E. & Oswald, Andrew J., 1998. "Comparison-concave utility and following behaviour in social and economic settings," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(1), pages 133-155, October.
  28. Harper, Barry, 2000. " Beauty, Stature and the Labour Market: A British Cohort Study," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 62(0), pages 771-800, Special I.
  29. 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.
  30. Katherine Baicker & Amitabh Chandra, 2006. "The Labor Market Effects of Rising Health Insurance Premiums," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(3), pages 609-634, July.
  31. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2006. "Bargaining in the Shadow of the Law: Divorce Laws and Family Distress," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 121(1), pages 267-288, 02.
  32. Winkelmann, Liliana & Winkelmann, Rainer, 1998. "Why Are the Unemployed So Unhappy? Evidence from Panel Data," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 65(257), pages 1-15, February.
  33. Ed Hopkins & Tatiana Kornienko, 2006. "Methods of Social Comparison in Games of Status," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000001183, UCLA Department of Economics.
  34. John Cawley, 2004. "The Impact of Obesity on Wages," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(2).
  35. Donald S. Kenkel & Dean R. Lillard & Alan D. Mathios, 2006. "The Roles of High School Completion and GED Receipt in Smoking and Obesity," NBER Working Papers 11990, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  36. Judith Cornelisse-Vermaat & Gerrit Antonides & Johan Ophem & Henriette Brink, 2006. "Body Mass Index, Perceived Health, and Happiness: Their Determinants and Structural Relationships," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 79(1), pages 143-158, October.
  37. Nattavudh Powdthavee, 2003. "Are there Regional Variations in the Psychological Cost of Unemployment in South Africa?," Labor and Demography 0310006, EconWPA, revised 28 Oct 2003.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wrk:warwec:793. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Helen Neal)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.