Insecurity, Inequality, and Obesity in Affluent Societies

Hardcover | July 26, 2012

EditorAvner Offer, Rachel Pechey, Stanley Ulijaszek

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During the last three decades, obesity has emerged as a big public health issue in affluent societies. A number of academic and policy approaches have been taken, none of which has been very effective. Most of the academic research, whether biological, epidemiological, social-scientific, or inthe humanities, has focused on the individual, and on his or her response to external incentives.The point of departure taken here is that institutions matter a great deal too, and especially the normative environment of the nation state. In brief, the argument is that obesity is a response to stress, and that some types of welfare regimes are more stressful than others. English-speakingmarket-liberal societies have higher levels of obesity, and also higher levels of labour and product market competition, which induce uncertainty and anxiety. The studies presented here investigate this hypothesis, utilising a variety of disciplines, and the concluding contribution by the editorspresents strong statistical evidence for its validity at the aggregate level. The hypothesis has an important bearing on public health policy and, indirectly, on economic policy more generally. It indicates that important drivers of obesity arise from the interaction between the external 'shock' offalling food prices and the enduring normative assumptions that govern society as a whole.If obesity is determined in part by inflexible norms and institutions, it may not be easy to counter it by focused interventions. Distinctive societal policy norms like an attachment to individualism (which national communities embrace with some conviction) may have harmful social spillovers whichare rarely taken into account.

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During the last three decades, obesity has emerged as a big public health issue in affluent societies. A number of academic and policy approaches have been taken, none of which has been very effective. Most of the academic research, whether biological, epidemiological, social-scientific, or inthe humanities, has focused on the individu...

Avner Offer is Chichele Professor of Economic History at the University of Oxford, a Fellow of All Souls College and of the British Academy. He was born and educated in Israel, graduated from the Hebrew University, and took his D.Phil. at Oxford. He initially studied land tenure, international political economy and the economics of wa...

other books by Avner Offer

The Challenge of Affluence: Self-Control and Well-Being in the United States and Britain since 1950
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Paperback|Nov 12 2007

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:220 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.1 inPublished:July 26, 2012Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0197264980

ISBN - 13:9780197264980

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction2. Jon Wisman and Kevin Capehart: Creative Destruction, Economic Insecurity, Stress, and Epidemic ObesityPart 1: Biological Fundamentals3. Robin Dunbar: Obesity: An Evolutionary Perspective4. Trent Smith: Behavioural Biology and ObesityPart 2: Social Stress5. Adam Drewnowski: Spatial Analyses of Obesity and Poverty6. Ruth Bell: Spatial Analyses of Obesity and Poverty7. Peter Whybrow: Time Urgency, Sleep Loss and ObesityPart 3: Sicuak Diffusion of Obesity and its Causes8. John Komlos: The Transition to Post-Industrial BMI Values in the United States9. Thorkild Sorensen: The History of the Obesity Epidemic in Denmark10. Kate Pickett: Income Inequality and Psychosocial Pathways to Obesity11. Avner Offer: 1. Obesity Under Affluence Varies by Welfare Regimes