A new discussion paper by Adelina Gschwandtner, Sarah L. Jewell and Uma Kambhampati, KDPE 1613, December 2016
Diet and life style diseases have become the main causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Both in the US and in Europe, the consumption of meat, dairy products, oil and fat, sugar, and alcoholic beverages has increased in the second half of the 20th century. This, together with drug abuse, tobacco and lack of exercise, has increased the risk of developing certain chronic diseases like some types of cancer, heart disease, stroke and obesity. In particular obesity, with its attendant impact on health, has become a central problem in many Western economies.
Obesity levels in the UK have more than trebled in the last 30 years and the UK has reached the highest level of obesity in Western Europe, ahead of countries such as Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Germany being labelled ‘The fat man of Europe’.1 This is not only a matter of life and death but also a problem that has a huge economic impact. The cost of diet-related ill health for the healthcare system in the UK have been estimated to be £5.8 billion.2 Moreover, the National Audit Office estimated that if the population met national nutritional guidelines, the health benefits that would accrue could be valued at £19.9 billion each year in quality adjusted life years.3 In addition, there might well be indirect costs relating to the impact that such a diet may have on subjective well-being. It is this that we are concerned with in this project where we show that a better lifestyle, reflected in our study by increased exercise and a better nutrition does seem to impact significantly positive on the life satisfaction of both men and women. Moreover, we find that the effect of a better life-style has a long-term effect on life-satisfaction. We also find that sports activity impacts more strongly on the well-being of men while nutrition is more significant in the case of women. Therefore, measures targeting the increased consumption of fruit and vegetables especially for women and targeting an increased level of exercise especially for men, may be more efficient than simply encouraging both life style dimensions for both genders equally. These findings could help inform policy in the field of health and well-being.
1 Source: The State of Food and Agriculture 2013, United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3300e/i3300e.pdf).
2 Scaraborough et al. (2011), Journal of Public Health.
3 National Audit Office C., Food: An Analysis of the Issue, The Strategy Unit, 2008
You can download the complete paper here.