Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Fat Friends And Poor Education Helps People Think Thin

Date:
July 25, 2008
Source:
University of Warwick
Summary:
People are powerfully but subconsciously influenced by the weight of those around them. Without being aware of it, researchers believe, human beings keep up with the weight of the Joneses. For a whole society, this can lead to a spiral of imitative obesity.

Research by economists at the University of Warwick, Dartmouth College, and the University of Leuven, finds that people are powerfully but subconsciously influenced by the weight of those around them. Without being aware of it, the researchers believe, human beings keep up with the weight of the Joneses.

Related Articles


For a whole society, this can lead to a spiral of imitative obesity. The researchers will present their results on July 25th at a National Bureau of Economic Research conference in Cambridge Massachusetts in a paper entitled Imitative Obesity and Relative Utility at the NBER Summer Institute on Health Economics.

Using data on 27,000 Europeans from 29 countries, the researchers find that nearly half of European women feel overweight. Less than a third of males feel overweight.

The authors suggest that whether for reasons of job promotions or finding a mate it is someone’s weight relative to others that matters. They show that overweight perceptions and dieting decisions are influenced by people’s comparisons with others of the same age and gender.

Highly educated Europeans hold themselves to a particularly tough standard, the research shows. For any given level of Body Mass Index (BMI), somebody with a university degree feels much fatter than someone with low educational qualifications.

Overall, the researchers believe that a person’s "utility" (an economic term roughly meaning satisfaction levels) depends on their own weight relative to the weight of those around them. They suggest that it is easier to be fat in a society that is fat.

However, the authors also found a significant gender split. Females were much more prone, for any given BMI value, to feel overweight. For European women, weight dissatisfaction and overweight perceptions depended crucially upon not just their own absolute BMI, but also upon their BMI relative to other women of exactly the same age in their country. Conversely, being overweight tended not to be a significant issue for men if many of those around them were as overweight as they were.

Professor Andrew Oswald at the University of Warwick, one of the researchers, said "Consumption of calories has gone up but that does not tell us why people are eating more. Some have argued that obesity has been produced by cheaper food, but if fatness is a response to greater purchasing power, why do we routinely observe that rich people are thinner than poor people?"

He said: "A lot of research into obesity, which has emphasized sedentary lifestyles or human biology or fast-food, has missed the key point. Rising obesity needs to be thought of as a sociological phenomenon not a physiological one. People are influenced by relative comparisons, and norms have changed and are still changing."

However, the authors found a significant gender split. Females were much more prone, for any given BMI value, to feel overweight. For European women, weight dissatisfaction and overweight perceptions depended crucially upon not just their own absolute BMI, but also upon their BMI relative to other women of exactly the same age in their country.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Warwick. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Warwick. "Fat Friends And Poor Education Helps People Think Thin." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 July 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080724095738.htm>.
University of Warwick. (2008, July 25). Fat Friends And Poor Education Helps People Think Thin. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080724095738.htm
University of Warwick. "Fat Friends And Poor Education Helps People Think Thin." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080724095738.htm (accessed December 19, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, December 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Best Tips to Curb Holiday Carbs

The Best Tips to Curb Holiday Carbs

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) It's hard to resist those delicious but fattening carbs we all crave during the winter months, but there are some ways to stay satisfied without consuming the extra calories. Vanessa Freeman (@VanessaFreeTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) More than 100 motorcyclists hit the road to spread awareness messages about Ebola. Nearly 7,000 people have now died from the virus, almost all of them in west Africa, according to the World Health Organization. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) A double-amputee makes history by becoming the first person to wear and operate two prosthetic arms using only his mind. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins