Behavioral economics of unemployment and obesity

Nice article in WaPo (HT: MR blog).

It looks at this side-effect of rising unemp – rise in obesity. People are depressed on being unemployed and start eating:

With its blue-collar jobs vaporizing by the day, this once proud city of airplane builders, pipe organ laborers and ice cream makers has been wrestling unsuccessfully with stubborn and still-high unemployment.

Now it’s confronting one of the side effects: Soaring obesity. A subject long ignored by policymakers, and one that unemployment counselors are too sheepish to raise with job seekers, the link between bulging waistlines and joblessness is now of intense interest to researchers studying the long-term effects of the country’s economic malaise.

Recent studies and surveys have shown a distinct relationship between unemployment and obesity, particularly for lower-skilled workers who struggle to find work — a search made more challenging by their weight.

In Hagerstown, where blue-collar jobs have gone overseas or to cheaper parts of the country, 8.4 percent are unemployed — well above Maryland’s 5.9 percent rate. Last month, Gallup identified the area as the third-heaviest place in the United States, with almost 37 percent of its residents obese. Local studies put the number even higher.

Sitting outside a local job resource center and looking at his belly, Eric Steiner was a noticeable example of what public health researchers are worried about. His layoff from a dump truck driving job five years ago coincided with him gaining more than 50 pounds.

Though one can never be sure of this. In developed countries losing a job might lead to obesity. In developing and poor, it might lead to loss in weight..

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