Hard economic times lead to expanding waistlines

The global economic malaise could result in a generation of flabbier people who try to assuage their worries by over-eating, according to a team of German researchers.

By (DPA)

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Published: Mon 24 Aug 2009, 10:40 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 8:36 AM

Credit-card debt is associated with an increased prevalence of overweight and obesity that is not explained by traditional definitions of socio-economic status, according to the team of scientists led by Dr Eva Muenster at the University of Mainz who tracked the weight of more than 9,000 people.

“Over-indebtedness should be additionally considered when assessing health effects of socio-economic status,” Dr Muenster wrote in the online journal BMC Public Health.

“The recent credit crunch will have implications for private households,” the German researchers warned. “Low socio-economic status is associated to various diseases. While income, education and occupational status is frequently used in definitions of socio-economic status, over-indebtedness of private households is usually not considered,” the researchers added.

“Over-indebtedness is currently increasing in high-income countries. However, its association with health - particularly with obesity - remains unknown,” they said.

The aim of their study was to assess an association between over-indebtedness and overweight or obesity.

The study surveyed a cross-sectional study on over-indebtedness and health including 949 over-indebted subjects from 2006 and 2007 in two states in Germany as well as a telephonic health survey in 2003 by the Robert Koch-Institute including 8,318 subjects, who are representative for the German population.

The stunning results showed that people with staggering credit card debt indulged in “comfort eating” while also getting less exercise.

“After adjusting for socio-economic (age, sex, education, income) and health factors (depression, smoking habits) an independent effect of the over-indebtedness situation on the probability of overweight and obesity could be identified,” the German scientists wrote.

“A person’s ability to pick and choose the food they eat often depends on the financial resources they have available,” Muenster said. “Energy-dense foods such as sweets or fatty snacks are often less expensive compared to food with lower energy density such as fruit or vegetables.”

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