Life satisfaction, overweightness and obesity
Keywords:obesity, overweight, BMI, life satisfaction, happiness
Abstract: Many economists share the view that the rise in obesity is largely the result of rational decision-making by individuals who compare risks and benefits. A dominant view among economists is that there is no economic justification for government intervention unless there is a market failure. However, recent developments in behavioral economics suggests that people often fail to make optimal decisions, and that public welfare may be improved by government interventions even when there is no externality. This paper examines the association between one’s body weight and life satisfaction by utilizing data on self-reported life satisfaction, which approximates individual utility, after briefly reviewing the economics of obesity and discussing the rationale and justification of obesity-related policies. Using a large data set (N = 1,465,219), it is found that life satisfaction of people who are overweight or obese is lower. The adverse life satisfaction effect of obesity remains statistically significant, even when socioeconomic factors and obesity-related health variables are controlled. The findings suggest that many overweight and obese people may be making sub-optimal decisions when it comes to eating. While the findings are not causal and thus do not necessarily suggest that government intervention will be welfare-enhancing even in the absence of negative externalities, effective anti-obesity policies may lead to higher life satisfaction among many overweight people who are struggling with self-control problems.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal. The license prevents others from using the work for profit without the express consent of the author(s). The license also prevents the creation of derivative works without the express consent of the author(s). Note that derivative works are very similar in nature to the original. Merely quoting (and appropriately referencing) a passage of a work is not making a derivative of it.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).