An investigation of the social and economic drivers of the obesity epidemic
Ludbrook, A. and Sutton, M. (HERU)
Various theories have been proposed to explain the development of the obesity epidemic, particularly in the USA. These include, for example, technological change and the role of prices. This project explored the feasibility of testing these theories with UK and European data. Although some USA studies have suggested that technological change resulting in reduced physical activity has been an important factor in rising obesity rates, this has been explored relatively little in the literature. The effect of physical activity during home, work and leisure time on BMI was analysed using data from the Health Survey for England in 1997 and 2003 with the main objective to judge whether the level and/or effect of these changed over time. The main findings were that the increase in BMI was not a result of individuals being less physically active or the effect of these activities on BMI having declined. Changes in the effect of other factors were much larger, with the predominant effect being age conditional on controlling for the effect of physical activity. It is not that the population had got older, rather that the effect of ageing on BMI had increased substantially. The results suggest that the increase in BMI over the period seems attributable to calorific intake rather than a reduction in physical activity.
Eberth, B., Morris, S. and Sutton, M. An empirical investigation into the relationship between BMI and three types of physical activity. Scottish Economic Society Conference, Perth, April 2007.
Eberth, B., Morris, S. and Sutton, M. An empirical investigation into the relationship between BMI and three types of physical activity. SIRE Health and Wellbeing at Work Conference. University of Aberdeen, June 2007.