Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Papers,
University of Aarhus, Aarhus School of Business, Department of Economics

No 11-7: Life Cycle Development of Obesity and Its Determinants

Sandra Cavaco , Tor Eriksson () and Ali Skalli
Additional contact information
Sandra Cavaco: LEM, Postal: Université Panthéon-Assas, (Paris 2), France
Tor Eriksson: Department of Economics, Aarhus School of Business, Postal: FRICHSHUSET , Hermodsvej 22, 1st and 2nd floors , DK 8230 Aabyhoej, Denmark
Ali Skalli: LEM, Postal: Université Panthéon-Assas, (Paris 2), France

Abstract: This paper is concerned with how obesity and some of its determinants develop over individuals’ life cycles. In particular we examine empirically the role and relative importance of early life conditions (parents’ education and socioeconomic status) and individuals’ own education as adults and how their impacts on the probability of overweight and obesity evolves over the life cycle. As the data set includes information about the individuals’ health behaviours (smoking and physical exercise) at various ages we can also examine the impact of these at different stages of the persons’ life cycle. The data used in the empirical analysis is from a common detailed questionnaire study carried out in six different European countries (Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, the Netherlands and the U.K.) and which was answered by about 6,000 individuals aged 50 to 65 at the time of the survey. Obesity indicators are constructed from information collected in the survey regarding individuals’ height and weight at different ages (25, 25, 45 and current age). We perform two types of econometric analyses on data for all countries: a “repeated cross-sections” analysis where each cross-section refers to the individual’s situation at a certain age and a random effects dynamic probit analysis of the individuals’ obesity histories. Key findings are: (i) controlling for parental and childhood factors, health behaviour and socioeconomic status affect country differences in overweight and obesity only marginally, (ii) parents’ socioeconomic status predicts obesity in early adulthood whereas individuals’ own socioeconomic status as adults is more important in explaining obesity at later stages of the life cycle, and (iii) changes in obesity status are associated with changes in health behaviours

Keywords: Obesity; socioeconomic status; life cycle; cross-country differences

JEL-codes: I12

30 pages, January 1, 2011

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