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Obesity in Australia: an economic perspective

posted on 09.02.2017, 05:07 authored by Au, Nicole
Obesity is a large and growing problem in Australia and many countries. The health and economic consequences associated with obesity can lead to increased costs and reduced welfare for society as a whole, and also tend to disproportionately affect those who are already socioeconomically disadvantaged. Research into the underlying economic determinants and consequences of obesity is important for developing evidence-based policy to address these issues. This thesis investigates some of the determinants and consequences of obesity in Australia from an economic perspective. Firstly, it examines the influence of an individual’s value of time (measured by labour force participation, employment hours and wage rates) on their probability of weight gain and obesity. Secondly, it investigates the health care cost implications of childhood overweight and obesity. The existing literature has paid little attention to the role of the value of time in determining obesity, particularly for women, and very few studies have examined this relationship using Australian data. This thesis contributes to the literature by using Australian panel data and appropriate econometric techniques to examine more closely the influence of labour force participation and work hours on weight gain among young and middle-aged women. It also determines the impact of having a higher value of time on BMI and obesity, separately by gender and by socioeconomic subgroup. The findings indicate that there may be value in preventive efforts that focus on reducing the time costs of maintaining a healthy body weight. The literature on childhood obesity is growing, yet little is known about the health care costs associated with obesity that are incurred during childhood. This thesis uses individual level data that is linked to Australian Medicare records to provide significant new information on the impact of being overweight at age 4 to 5 on publicly-funded health care costs during childhood. It also explores the dynamics behind childhood overweight, including duration and timing of becoming overweight, in relation to health care costs. The findings suggest that early prevention of childhood obesity in children as young as 4 or 5 years may have significant economic implications. In summary, this thesis makes an important contribution to the understanding of the economic determinants and consequences of obesity in some key population groups, including children and young women of Australia.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Bruce Hollingsworth

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Centre for Health Economics


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Business and Economics