New Study Reveals Weight Differences between Men & Women Struggling to Pay Bills

Released: 14-Feb-2014 10:00 AM EST
Source Newsroom: Academy Communications
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Citations Economics & Human Biology

Newswise — Researchers in Lafayette College’s department of economics have learned that women who are struggling to pay bills are more likely to be obese, and men who are struggling to pay bills are more likely to be thin. Their new study “Financial Hardship and Obesity: The Link between Weight and Household Debt” appears in the April 2014 edition of the academic journal Economics & Human Biology and sheds new light on differences between men and women living under the strains of debt.

“It’s no secret that there is a substantial correlation between household debt and health,” notes Susan Averett, economics professor at Lafayette, “and research has shown that individuals with less healthy lifestyles are more likely to hold debt.” Averett says she and her co-author, Julie Smith, assistant professor, used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health to test whether financial hardship affects body weight. They divided their sample into two groups: men and women, explored two different types of financial hardship: holding credit card debt and having trouble paying bills, and three outcomes: overweight, obese and Body Mass Index (BMI).

“Individuals with less healthy lifestyles are more likely to hold debt, yet there is little evidence as to whether this is merely a correlation or if financial hardship actually causes obesity,” says Averett. While their results reveal no causal relationship between credit card debt and overweight or obesity for either men or women, Averett says they did find suggestive evidence that having trouble paying bills may be a cause of obesity for women, but not men.

“We find differing effects of having trouble paying the bills on obesity for men versus women,” she says. “For men, having trouble paying the bills tends to reduce the probability of being obese, while it appears to raise the probability of obesity for women.”

While their research offered no clear evidence to explain the weight differences between men and women struggling with debt, the Lafayette professors say it is possible to consider an obvious occupational effect. “Both men and women at the lower end of the income distribution may be relying on the same cheap calorie-dense foods as they struggle financially,” she points out. “However, men at the lower end of the income distribution tend to have occupations that often require more manual labor, thus they are often expending more calories at work,” Averett notes.

More information on the research can be found here:

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