Do Recessions Improve the Teenage Obesity Rate?
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Recent evidence reveals an interesting relationship between macroeconomic conditions and population health/health behaviors: economic downturns have been correlated with positive effects on overall health and health behaviors, while economic booms have been correlated with the negative effects on overall health and health behaviors. Although studies have established associations between adult health conditions with periods of economic fluctuations, I am interested in how the economy affects the obesity rate of teenagers, a unique age group that captures the transition from puberty to young adulthood—a period of increased independence, decreased parental supervision, and entry into work force. My study helps identify potential behavioral mechanisms behind teenage weight fluctuations and the groups of teenagers most at risk of becoming overweight or obese, requiring the most attention in future efforts to reduce the teenage obesity rate. My analysis does not find overwhelming evidence of healthier behaviors in teenagers in bad economies, except that males are more inclined to enroll in more physical education classes. On the contrary, I find that smoking worsens in both genders. I do find that male weight outcomes improve when the economy declines, reinforcing the relationship between the economy and health that we have yet to better understand.
DescriptionHonors thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for Graduation with Distinction in Economics in Trinity College of Duke University.
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Rights for Collection: Undergraduate Honors Theses and Student papers