Blanchflower, David G. Oswald, Andrew J. Van Landeghem, Bert
Year of Publication:
IZA Discussion Papers 4010
If human beings care about their relative weight, a form of imitative obesity can emerge (in which people subconsciously keep up with the weight of the Joneses). Using Eurobarometer data on 29 countries, this paper provides cross-sectional evidence that overweight perceptions and dieting are influenced by a person's relative BMI, and longitudinal evidence from the German Socioeconomic Panel that well-being is influenced by relative BMI. Highly educated people see themselves as fatter - at any given actual weight - than those with low education. These results should be treated cautiously, and fixed-effects estimates are not always well-determined, but there are grounds to take seriously the possibility of socially contagious obesity.
Body mass index BMI comparisons imitation happiness peer effects dieting mental health well-being obesity