In recent years, the prevalence of overweight and obesity has increased markedly worldwide. It has been theorised that some of this increase may be attributed to changes in certain psychological markers, such as self-esteem, but little attention has been focused on these mechanisms. This study hypothesises that decreases in self-esteem cause individuals to gain weight. A utility-maximisation model is established which relates self-esteem to weight. This model is empirically tested with data from several waves of the Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey using life events as instruments.
Social interconnectedness and media consumption have risen rapidly in the modern world, concurrently with the increased prevalence of overweight and obesity. The resulting increase in social group size is examined as a potential cause of systematic decreases in self-esteem. A theoretical model demonstrating this relationship is developed and preliminary tests are conducted using the HILDA survey.
Finally, the policy implications of this analysis are discussed, with a focus on public health policy. The results of the empirical analysis lend support to the hypothesis that self-esteem affects the prevalence of overweight and obesity, and that the increased size of social groups causes injury to self-esteem.