I Shouldn’t Eat this Donut: Self-Control, Body Weight, and Health in a Life Cycle Model

37 Pages Posted: 3 Jan 2019

See all articles by Holger Strulik

Holger Strulik

University of Goettingen (Gottingen) - School of Law, Economics, Social Sciences

Date Written: December 19, 2018

Abstract

In this paper I discuss overweight and obesity and their repercussions on health deficit accumulation and longevity in a life cycle model. Individual decisions are conceptualized as the partial control of impulsive desires of a short-run self (the limbic system) by a rationally forward-looking long-run self (the prefrontal cortex). The short-run self strives for immediate gratification through consumption of food and other goods. The long-run self reflects the consequences of eating behavior on weight gain and health, exercises to lose weight, invests money to improve health and saves for health expenditure in old age. Not conceding to short-run desires, however, entails an idiosyncratic utility cost of self-control. The model is calibrated to match food expenditure, exercise, and other choices of an average U.S. American. The results suggests that imperfect self-control reduces average lifetime by up to five years. I use the model to analyze the role of self-control, income, food prices, energy density, and medical progress in explaining obesity and to develop a test on whether obesity is driven by excessive desire for food or lack of self-control.

Keywords: self-control, overweight, obesity, physical exercise, health investments, aging, longevity

JEL Classification: D11, D91, E21, I10, I12

Suggested Citation

Strulik, Holger, I Shouldn’t Eat this Donut: Self-Control, Body Weight, and Health in a Life Cycle Model (December 19, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3303824 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3303824

Holger Strulik (Contact Author)

University of Goettingen (Gottingen) - School of Law, Economics, Social Sciences ( email )

Germany

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