May 09, 2019

Globally obesity is affecting rural areas more than cities

Globally obesity is affecting rural areas more than cities

According to a new study of global trends in body mass index (BMI), published in the scientific journal Nature, obesity is growing at a faster rate in rural areas than in cities. The report led by Imperial College London has discovered that in the period between 1985 and 2017, BMI has risen by an average of 2kg/m2 in women and 2.2kg/m2 in men globally. This indicates that each person has gained 5–6kg in that time.

IZA World of Labor author Susan L. Averett has looked at obesity in relation to labor market outcomes. In her article, she writes: “Rising obesity is not only a pressing global public health problem. There is also substantial evidence that obese people, particularly women, are less likely to be employed and, when employed, are likely to earn lower wages. There is some evidence that the lower earnings are a result of discriminatory hiring and sorting into jobs with less customer contact.”

The study has also concluded that when it comes to women in high-income countries, BMI has generally been higher since 1985 in rural areas. Researchers involved in the study analyzed 112 million adults across urban and rural areas from 200 countries in 32 years and recorded their height and weight. Senior author, Professor Majid Ezzati of Imperial’s School of Public Health, commented: “The results of this massive global study overturn commonly held perceptions that more people living in cities is the main cause of the global rise in obesity.”

Researchers have pointed out that there are disadvantages that those living in rural areas are facing which can be to blame for the rise in BMI. These include lower income and education, limited availability of and the higher price of healthy foods, and fewer sports facilities.

In her article, Averett concludes: “Obesity threatens to become an increasing burden on all taxpayers as a result of the associated higher medical costs, lower productivity and wages, and reduced probability of finding employment. Governments and employers have a compelling interest in finding ways to reduce obesity levels and discrimination against obese workers.”

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