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Bad News, Good News?

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Published : January 13th, 2012
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Category : Crisis Watch





In "Are Americans Getting Healthier?" the Wall Street Journal's Real Time Economics blog notes an interesting turn of events:

Americans might be getting healthier, a development that — if true — could have economic causes and consequences.

Obesity may be on the decline.The percentage of Americans who are obese declined from 2010 to 2011, according to a Gallup report released this week. In every quarter of the past year, there were fewer obese Americans than in the same period of 2010, the polling firm said. All told, 26.1% of American adults were obese in 2011, compared with 26.6% in 2010.

The year-over-year decrease is “statistically significant,” said Gallup’s Elizabeth Mendes, calling the trend “a really positive sign.” She said Gallup is studying the quarterly survey data and hasn’t yet drawn any conclusions about why obesity may have waned in the past year. (In 2009, 26.5% of American adults were obese.)

Some have theories, however.

According to Jennifer Robinson, a professor in epidemiology and medicine at the University of Iowa‘s College of Public Health, “economics is driving this.” Dr. Robinson, who has studied weight in the U.S. over the past 50 years, said obesity rates were flat until about the mid-1970s. While the obesity rate among lower-income individuals was always greater than for higher earners, rates across the entire income spectrum rose between the 1970s and 2001, she said, with obesity “skyrocketing” among the top quartile of earners.

Dr. Robinson, who based her research on data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, pegs economics as the reason behind the increase among higher earners. A number of factors came into play, she said: longer commuting times, more sedentary lives, larger portion sizes in restaurants and the coffee-shop phenomenon of indulging in “1,000-calorie grande lattes and that kind of thing.”

Of course, circumstances have changed quite a bit since the bubble burst, and current economic conditions may well be be having the opposite effect. In fact, according to Dr. Robinson,

the recession and the slow recovery is “especially male workers,” she said, “and I think a lot of discretionary food expenditures are declining.”

With that in mind, perhaps the following report should be taken as exceptionally good news?

"Further Rise in Poverty Seen with Slow Recovery" (Reuters)

Nearly 10 million more Americans have fallen into poverty since the 2007-2009 U.S. recession began, and the number is expected to increase due to the slow pace of the economic recovery, a study released on Wednesday by Indiana University showed.

Michael J. Panzner 



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Michael J. Panzner is a 25-year veteran of the global stock, bond, and currency markets and the author of Financial Armageddon: Protecting Your Future from Four Impending Catastrophes, published by Kaplan Publishing.
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