Obesity and health

Children’s weights were stable from the Great Depression until the 1980s. Obesity started rising in the mid-1980s and plateaued in the mid-2000s.

  1. von Hippel, P. T., & Nahhas, R. (2013). “Extending the history of child obesity in the United States: The Fels Longitudinal Study, birth years 1930-1993.” Obesity 21(1): 2153-2156. PubMed 23512972.

We keep trying to solve child obesity through schools, but it’s during summer vacations that overweight grows. This result has been reported by the New York Times, NPR.org, and 133 other news outlets.

  1. von Hippel, P. T. & Workman, J. (2016). “From kindergarten through second grade, children’s obesity prevalence grows only during summer vacations.” Obesity 24(11), 2296-2300.
  2. von Hippel, P.T., Powell, B., Downey, D.B., & †Rowland, N. (2007). “The effect of school on overweight in childhood: Gains in children’s body mass index during the school year and during summer vacation.American Journal of Public Health 97(4), 796-802.
  3. Brazendale, K., Beets, M.W., Weaver, R.G., Pate, R.R., Turner-McGrievy, G., Kaczynski, A.T., Chandler, J.C., & Bohnert, A. & von Hippel P.T. (2017, in press) “Understanding differences between summer vs. school obesogenic behaviors of children: The structured days hypothesis.International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

Among the school-based obesity policies that don’t work are blank checks to spend on physical education. Between 2009 and 2013, the state of Texas gave high poverty middle schools $37 million to spend on PE. The schools bought a lot of sports and exercise equipment, but obesity rates didn’t fall.

  1. von Hippel, P. T. & †Bradbury, K. (2015). “The effects of school physical education grants on obesity, fitness, and achievement.” Preventive Medicine 78: 45-51.

Women with graduate degrees weigh 30 pounds less, on average, than women who dropped out of high school. But only 2 of the pounds are because higher education is good for your weight. The main reason educated adults are slim is that slim teenagers are more likely to pursue higher education.

  1. von Hippel, P. T., & Lynch, J.L. (2014). “Why are educated adults slim—causation or selection?” Social Science and Medicine 105: 131-139. PubMed 24524908. Also available as SSRN working paper 2054843.
  2. Benson, R., von Hippel,, P.T., & Lynch, J.L. (2017). “Does more education cause lower BMI, or do lower-BMI individuals become more educated? Evidence from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979.” Social Science and Medicine, doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2017.03.042. Also available as SSRN working paper 2945097.
  3. Lynch, J.L. & von Hippel, P.T. (2016) “An education gradient in health, a health gradient in education, or a confounded gradient in both?” Social Science and Medicine 154:18-27. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.02.029. Epub Feb 23, 2016. Also available as SSRN working paper 2583971.

Other obesity research:

  1. von Hippel, P. T., Nahhas, R., & Czerwinski, S. (2015). “How much do children’s body mass indices change over periods of 6-12 months? Statistics from before and during the obesity epidemic.” Pediatric Obesity 10(6): 468-475.
  2. von Hippel, P. T. & †Benson, R. (2014). “Obesity and the natural environment across US counties.” American Journal of Public Health, 104(7):1287-1293. PubMed 24832148.