'Free market' causes obesity?
Beware the headless fatty pic when clicking on the article, like usual. I haven't checked out the comments of course, but as usual proceed with caution.
Some of the points made are reasonable:
"Policies to reduce levels of obesity tend to focus on encouraging people to look after themselves, but this study suggests that obesity has larger social causes," said Avner Offer, a professor of economic history who led the study.
Then the correlative findings:
Offer's team looked at 11 wealthy countries and found that those with a liberal market regime -- with strong market incentives and relatively weak welfare states -- experienced one-third more obesity on average.
Comparing four "market-liberal" English-speaking countries -- the United States, Britain, Canada and Australia -- with seven relatively wealthy European countries that traditionally offer stronger social protection -- Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain and Sweden -- the team found that economic insecurity is strongly linked to levels of obesity.
And then the specious hypothesis and outright wrong claims:
Countries with higher levels of job and income security were associated with lower levels of obesity, the researchers said.
"Basically, our hypothesis is that market-liberal reforms have stimulated competition in both the work environment and in what we consume, and this has undermined personal stability and security," Offer said in a statement about the findings.
He also argued that the onset and increase of large-scale obesity began during the 1980s, coinciding with the rise of market-liberalism in the English-speaking countries.
Actually, market-liberalism arose in the nineteenth century. It went into great decline in the war and postwar era, and then came back in some measure in the post-Carter Reaganomics era (though outlays for defense spiked during that time). But it was no new golden age of liberal economics: in general, the law of aging governments rarely deviates from increasing regulation, increasing control, increasing meddling, increasing services, increasing general dependency---a trend much more historically convincing than any kind of 30% correlation dredged up by the authors of this article.
In short, their economic assumptions, their attempt to tie in some kind of economic trend to 'growing' obesity levels (which we know were manufactured in part by changing BMI definitions from their adoption in the 1980s until 2000), lead me to believe that this is nothing more than a weak swipe at liberal economics by taking advantage of the Diet Season's weight obsession.
But that's really beside the point. The article is about emotional instability and stress as the core driving impulse behind fatness. It also gives a nod to the fake 'fast-food shock' exemplified by scare-screeds like "Super Size Me." The population has gotten fatter with greater food security (about 15 lbs over the past 30 years), as it's gotten taller (about two inches in that same time period), healthier, and longer-lived. The idea that this more definite trend is rooted in economic insecurity is correlative, statistical-illogic BS.
If it was, we'd notice trends in fatness directly corresponding to times of greatest economic insecurity and the greatest domestic stress---war and recessions. It's just a guess since I don't have my hands on any charts, but I'm guessing if there's any size-related trend over time with respect to war and recession it's people getting thinner, not fatter.
Anecdotally---I come from a long line of fat people. Without exception (AFAIK), we lose our appetites in stressful situations. I know we're not outliers---I've heard of many others, including thin friends, who also lose their appetites during stress. My own husband lost 15 lbs the month we moved into our first house. An ex had chronic indigestion due to stress and had to carefully monitor his intake to make sure he was eating enough, as he was already underweight. The Mayo Clinic lists both overeating and undereating as signs of stress.
Based on what I've read all these years the difference in obesity rates has much more to do with distribution of genetic groups, which is another way the English-speaking countries are tied together. Economic insecurity and social stress is not by any stretch unique to relatively free markets. Blaming it on stress of the 'free market' is short-sighted, and reduces the complicated socioeconomic relationship to size to something simplistically meaningless.
This article is Diet Season incendiary crap meant to do little more than advance an agenda by taking advantage of a vulnerable population. It doesn't even touch upon the relationship between size and socioeconomic status, and if it did it would still ignore the elephant in the room---genetics---in its attempt to frame fatness as a social problem to be 'fixed.' It's time to take back our fat identities---we aren't problems, we aren't symptoms of a broken economic system, or a broken planet, or broken health, or a broken morality.
NOTE: Do not click on the links the last sentence unless you have at least 100,000 Sanity Watchers points.