The Changing Relationship between Bodyweight and Longevity in High- and Low-Income Countries

27 Pages Posted: 17 May 2021 Last revised: 25 Mar 2022

See all articles by Joanna Aleksandra Kopinska

Joanna Aleksandra Kopinska

University of Rome I - Sapienza University of Rome, Department of Earth Sciences and Forecasting Research Center, Prevention and Control of Geological Risks

Vincenzo Atella

University of Rome Tor Vergata - Centre for International Studies on Economic Growth (CEIS); Department of Economics and Finance; University of Rome Tor Vergata - Faculty of Economics

Jay Bhattacharya

Stanford University - Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Grant Miller

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Stanford University - School of Medicine

Date Written: May 2021

Abstract

Standard measures of bodyweight (overweight and obese, for example) fail to reflect technological progress over time - and in particular, recent progress disproportionately promoting longevity at higher bodyweights (and differences in access to it). This paper builds on the pioneering work of Hans Waaler (Waaler, 1984) and Robert Fogel (Fogel, 1994) to empirically estimate how technological progress, and differential access to it, have fundamentally transformed the relationship between body mass index (BMI) and longevity in high-, middle-, and low-income countries. Importantly, we show that the combined effect of technological progress and access to it across countries is so profound that the share of national populations above mortality-minimizing bodyweight is not clearly greater in countries with higher overweight and obesity rates (as traditionally defined) - and in fact, relative to current standards, a larger share of low-income countries’ populations can be unhealthily heavy.

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Suggested Citation

Kopinska, Joanna Aleksandra and Atella, Vincenzo and Bhattacharya, Jayanta and Miller, Grant and Miller, Grant, The Changing Relationship between Bodyweight and Longevity in High- and Low-Income Countries (May 2021). NBER Working Paper No. w28813, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3847558

Joanna Aleksandra Kopinska (Contact Author)

University of Rome I - Sapienza University of Rome, Department of Earth Sciences and Forecasting Research Center, Prevention and Control of Geological Risks

Rome
Italy

Vincenzo Atella

University of Rome Tor Vergata - Centre for International Studies on Economic Growth (CEIS) ( email )

Via Columbia, 2
Rome, I-00133
Italy
+39 06 72595648 (Phone)

Department of Economics and Finance ( email )

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Roma, 00133
Italy

University of Rome Tor Vergata - Faculty of Economics ( email )

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Italy
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+30 06 2020 500 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.economia.uniroma2.it/sefemeq/professori/atella/

Jayanta Bhattacharya

Stanford University - Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research ( email )

Center for Health Policy
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Grant Miller

Stanford University - School of Medicine ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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