The Effect of Online Food Delivery on Diet-Related Diseases: Empirical Evidence
35 Pages Posted: 22 Dec 2022
Date Written: October 5, 2022
Online food delivery (OFD) platforms provide consumers with convenient access to a wide range of food options. As calorie-dense options are frequently reported by OFD providers as top popular selections, OFD platforms may facilitate unhealthy food intake and increase the risk of diet-related diseases. To clarify this causal link, we use a large-scale dataset of hospital outpatient visits from the 12 most populous counties in New York State to measure the impact of OFD on individuals’ health status, with a focus on diet-related diseases. Since major OFD platforms enter different cities on staggered dates, we leverage difference-in-differences models to evaluate the health impact of OFD platforms. We find that the entry of OFD platforms significantly increases hospital visits due to overweight and obesity diseases, which are directly associated with unhealthy diets, but not those visits due to hyperlipidemia, hypertension, and diabetes, which are influenced by unhealthy diets less directly. We discuss and affirm the most significant mechanism by which the enhanced availability of unhealthy food on OFD platforms drives the increase in hospital visits for overweight and obesity diseases. Additional heterogeneous analyses demonstrate a stronger OFD effect in the population groups that constitute the major OFD users. The findings provide pioneering evidence of the impact of OFD platforms on health and offer implications for both OFD providers and consumers.
Funding Information: Lin Qiu acknowledges the support of SUSTech Start-up Funding Y01976208.
Conflict of Interests: The authors declared no competing interest.
Ethical Approval: This research did not contain any studies involving animal or human participants, nor did it take place on any private or protected areas.
Keywords: online food delivery (OFD) platforms, diet-related diseases, overweight and obesity diseases, counterfactual estimator.
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