Obesity under affluence varies by welfare regimes: the effect of fast food, insecurity, and inequality

Econ Hum Biol. 2010 Dec;8(3):297-308. doi: 10.1016/j.ehb.2010.07.002. Epub 2010 Jul 27.


Among affluent countries, those with market-liberal welfare regimes (which are also English-speaking) tend to have the highest prevalence of obesity. The impact of cheap, accessible high-energy food is often invoked in explanation. An alternative approach is that overeating is a response to stress, and that competition, uncertainty, and inequality make market-liberal societies more stressful. This ecological regression meta-study pools 96 body-weight surveys from 11 countries c. 1994-2004. The fast-food 'shock' impact is found to work most strongly in market-liberal countries. Economic insecurity, measured in several different ways, was almost twice as powerful, while the impact of inequality was weak, and went in the opposite direction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Fast Foods / economics*
  • Food Supply / economics*
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Models, Economic
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Obesity / economics*
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Prejudice
  • Social Class*
  • Social Welfare / economics*
  • Social Welfare / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological
  • United States / epidemiology