The Obesity/Gasoline Relationship

It turns out that higher gas prices may have one positive side-effect. According to research from a doctoral dissertation by someone at Washington University in St. Louis, higher gas prices leads to less U.S. obesity.

$1 in real gasoline prices would reduce obesity in the U.S. by 15%
after five years, and that 13% of the rise in obesity between 1979 and
2004 can be attributed to falling real gas prices during this period. I
also provide evidence that the effect occurs both by increasing
exercise and by lowering the frequency with which people eat at


  1. – and your 15% reduction in obesity would result in huge health care cost savings as well.

  2. No it wouldn’t. The correlation between obesity and high health care costs is almost non-existent. Most of what you hear is purely anecdotal. Once tested, these ideas almost always go down in flames.

  3. “The correlation between obesity and high health care costs is almost non-existent.”
    Really? It is not anecdotal at all.
    Research using NHANES data in 2002 showed that obese adults between 18 and 65 years of age have 36% higher average annual medical expenditures compared with those of normal weight.
    In 2003 money, aggregate obesity-attributable medical expenditures accounted for 5.3% of adult medical expenditures in the US. About 50% of this is financed by Medicare and Medicaid.
    In 2004 money, the estimate of US’s annual obesity-attributable medical expenditure stands at $75B.
    If all obesity-attributable medical expenditures were financed through taxes levied at the national level, the tax would need to be set at approximately $350 per adult to fully recover the costs.
    So well, sorry to disappoint but there is a finite relationship between obesity and healthcare costs.
    Now unless you are saying the CDC is rubbish and NHANES and BRFSS data is junk… of course, I leave it to you to critique your own country’s institutions otherwise seen as exemplars.
    PS: The doctoral research results, while fascinating, are not really useful from a policy perspective. It is like Twinkie Tax. It will not fly because the public wants the right to self-determination.

  4. Not the newest idea.
    But the statistics numbers are always interesting.