The effect of job loss on body weight during an economic collapse
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- Jónsdóttir, S. & Ásgeirsdóttir, T.L. Eur J Health Econ (2014) 15: 567. doi:10.1007/s10198-013-0494-z
Studies on the relationship between unemployment and body weight show a positive relationship between Body Mass Index (BMI) and unemployment at the individual level, while aggregate unemployment is negatively related to a population’s average BMI. The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between job loss and changes in body weight following the Icelandic economic collapse of 2008. The analysis relies on a health and lifestyle survey “Heilsa og líðan”, carried out by The Public Health Institute of Iceland in the years 2007 and 2009. The sample is a stratified random sample of 9,807 Icelanders between the ages of 18 and 79, with a net response rate of 42.1 % for individuals responding in both waves. A linear regression model was used when estimating the relationship between job loss following the economic collapse and changes in body weight. Family income and mental health were explored as mediators. Point estimates indicated that both men and women gain less weight in the event of a job loss relative to those who retained their employment. The coefficients of job loss were only statistically significant for females, but not in the male population. The results from all three models were inconsistent with results from other studies where job loss has been found to increase body weight. However, body weight has been shown to be procyclical, and the fact that the data used were gathered during a severe economic downturn might separate these results from earlier findings.