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date: 14 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Among affluent countries, those with market-liberal welfare regimes (which are also English-speaking) tend to have the highest prevalence of obesity. The impact of cheap, accessible, high-energy food is often invoked in explanation. An alternative approach is that overeating is a response to stress and that competition, uncertainty, and inequality make market-liberal societies more stressful. This hypothesis was investigated in 2010 by means of a multivariate study of 11 advanced countries. The fast-food “shock” impact was found to be strongest in market-liberal countries. Economic insecurity, measured in several different ways, was almost twice as powerful as fast-food impact, whereas the impact of inequality was weak and went in the opposite direction. Since then, the findings have been confirmed in several multicountry panel studies with different research designs that have found market liberalism to be a powerful determinant of the prevalence of obesity.

Keywords: obesity, market-liberal, welfare regime, fast food, cheap food, overeating, stress, economic insecurity

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