Time Discounting and the Body Mass Index

46 Pages Posted: 19 May 2005

See all articles by Lex Borghans

Lex Borghans

Maastricht University - Department of Economics; University of Maastricht - Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Bart Golsteyn

Maastricht University - Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA); IZA Institute of Labor Economics; Stockholm University - Swedish Institute for Social Research (SOFI)

Date Written: May 2005

Abstract

In many Western countries, the relative weight of people - measured by the Body Mass Index (BMI) - has increased substantially in recent years, leading to an increasing incidence of overweight and related health problems. As with many forms of risky behavior, it is plausible that overweight is related to the individual discount rate. Increases in credit card debts, the rise in gambling and the development of a more hedonic life style, suggest that the average discount rate has increased over time. This increase may have been the cause of the increase in BMI. Applying a large set of indicators for the individual discount rate, this paper analyzes whether changes in time discounting can account for differences in body mass between individuals at a given point in time and whether changes in the average individual discount rate can explain the remarkable increase in BMI experienced in recent years. We find some evidence for a link between time discounting and differences in BMI between people, but this relationship depends strongly on the choice of the proxy for the discount rate. Giving our hypothesis the best chance, we analyze the development of the time discounting proxies that are most strongly related to BMI. We find no evidence for a change of these proxies over time. Our main conclusion therefore is that overweight might be related to the way people discount future health benefits, but the increase in BMI has to be explained by shifts in other parameters that determine the intertemporal decisions regarding the trade-off of current and future health and satisfaction.

Keywords: body mass index (BMI), risky behavior, time discounting

JEL Classification: I1

Suggested Citation

Borghans, Lex and Golsteyn, Bart, Time Discounting and the Body Mass Index (May 2005). IZA Discussion Paper No. 1597. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=725543

Lex Borghans (Contact Author)

Maastricht University - Department of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 616
Maastricht, 6200 MD
Netherlands

University of Maastricht - Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA) ( email )

P.O. Box 616
Maastricht, MD6200
Netherlands

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Bart Golsteyn

Maastricht University - Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA) ( email )

P.O. Box 616
Maastricht, MD6200
Netherlands

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Stockholm University - Swedish Institute for Social Research (SOFI) ( email )

Kyrkgatan 43B
SE-106 91 Stockholm
Sweden

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
124
Abstract Views
1,005
rank
227,381
PlumX Metrics