Overweight/Obesity and Time Preference: Evidence from a Survey among Adults in the UK
AuthorTouray, Morro M.L.
Cohen, David R.
Williams, Simon Robert Pask
Alam, Mohammed Fasihul
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Introduction: Overweight and obesity is a global problem incurring substantial health and economic implications. This has also been highlighted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which has disproportionately affected overweight and obese individuals. Most of the interventions have concentrated on promotion of physical activities and healthy eating which may involve current sacrifices for future health gains. The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between bodyweight and how individuals state they would trade-off immediate income for higher amounts in the future (time preference). Methods: An online survey was conducted targeting adults aged >16 years in the UK (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales) from January 1, 2016 to July 31, 2016. Using paid online adverts, as well as personal and professional networks for distribution of links to the online survey, the questionnaire asked respondents to report socio-economic and demographic information, height, and weight and to complete a time preference exercise. Data were analysed using descriptive statistics; associations were explored between BMI and respondents' characteristics and time preference using Spearman rank-order correlation and χ2 tests as appropriate. We adopted STROBE guidelines for the reporting of the study. Results: A total of 561 responses were analysed (female = 293, males = 268). The relationship between time preference and overweight/obesity, using BMI as the measure is highly significant (χ2 = 95.92: p < 0.001). Individuals of normal weight have low time preferences and are more likely to invest in activities in a bid to reap future health benefits. There are also significant relationships between BMI and employment status (χ2 = 37.03; p < 0.001), physical activities (p < 0.0001), income levels (χ2 = 6.68; p < 0.035), family orientation, i.e., with or without children (χ2 = 12.88; p < 0.012), and ethnicity (χ2 = 18.31; p < 0.001). These imply that individuals in employment and with children in their families are less likely to be overweight or obese compared to those who do not. People from black backgrounds are also more likely to be overweight or obese and have higher time preferences compared to people from white backgrounds. Discussions/Conclusions: People's preventive behaviours today can be predicted by their time preference and this understanding could be vital in improving population's uptake and maintenance of overweight and obesity prevention actions. People who have low time preference are more likely to invest time and resources in physical activities and healthy lifestyles to reap future health benefits hence value utilities-in-anticipation. Public health programmes should therefore use the knowledge of the association between time preference and overweight/obesity to inform designs of intervention programmes.
- Public Health [256 items ]