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Obesity link to debt
12 Aug 2009 | Germany: over-indebted are 2.5 times more likely to be obese
| 12 August 2009

Previous Alliance Alerts have noted the impact that the ‘credit crunch’ seems to be having on smoking behaviour (click here >>) and employee wellness (here >>) – and now new research shows that the recession may also be having a detrimental effect on waistlines.

The German study, published in BMC Public Health, set out to investigate the link between health and over-indebtedness (which is increasing in developed countries). It found that people in debt are significantly more likely to be overweight – people who were over-indebted had 1.97 times higher odds for being overweight and 2.56 times higher odds for obesity, after adjusting for age, sex, education, income and health factors (e.g. depression and smoking). In other words, 25 per cent of the 949 people studied who were in debt were obese, compared to 11 per cent of the 8,318 study participants who were not in debt. The study suggested that ‘over-indebtedness should be additionally considered when assessing health effects of socioeconomic status’.

As the recession bites, more people are being affected by debt – although it was not possible to ascertain whether the participants gained weight when they lost income because of their debt, or if they were already overweight before their financial difficulties began.

The researchers suggest that debt can affect diet and exercise – it can limit leisure-time activities and restrict attendance at social events, and may also limit the ability to choose healthy foods. According to Eva Münster of the University of Mainz, ‘Energy-dense foods such as sweets or fatty snacks are often less expensive compared to food with lower energy density such as fruit or vegetables.’

Source: Press Association, 11 August 2009.