Economics of Obesity: Health as a Luxury Good

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Q1. Economics of obesity: Health as a luxury good There has been a great deal of public hand-wringing over the obesity epidemic in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. However, obesity does not affect all groups equally. Demographically, the poor are far more likely to be obese. The face of a poor person today is unlikely to be that of a person suffering from malnutrition or under-nutrition, but rather an obese person suffering from eating an abundance of calories derived from low-nutrient sources. According to the World Health Organization, while "issues of nutrition had previously been almost exclusively concerned with such matters as breast-feeding, protein energy malnutrition, and micronutrient deficiencies" poverty and obesity are strongly correlated worldwide, not simply in the developed world (James 2001). People who are poorer are, in general, less able to have access to fresh, healthy vegetables and low-fat meats, causing them to rely upon cheaper, sugary carbohydrates as their main source of nutrition. They have less access to places where it is safe to exercise, and less leisure time in which to engage in healthy, active pursuits. A recent national study in the US confirmed that "body mass index (or BMI, an indicator of excess body fat) was higher every year between 1986 and 2002 among adults in the lowest income group and the lowest education group than among those in the highest income and education groups, respectively" and "wages were inversely related to BMI
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