Ever since year 2005, petrol price has been going up and it has gone even worse lately. I just came across an interesting finding from a study – the increase of gas prices are actually helping people to lose weight. A doctoral student in health economics at the University of Washington found out that rising fuel costs are forcing American to drive less, eat at home more and eventually slimming down.
The student, Charles Courtemanche, called it a “silver lining” to this global fuel price problem which is getting worse for the past couple of years. He found that every US$1 rise in gas prices has reduced obesity by about 15 percent after 5 years. He even estimated that this trend could save 16,000 lives and help US government to save as much as US$17 billion in health bills each year. The report shows that between 1979 and 2004 which the pump prices are affordable, obesity has risen about 13 percent during that period. Obesity, which is defined as having a body mass index more than 30, has been considered to factor in as many as 112,000 deaths annually.
While many are skeptical about that conclusion, to a certain extent, I may agree with what Charles has found out:
- As petrol become more expensive while our earning power remains the same, we may drive less and walk more. Walk the kids to school. Walk to subways or bus stops to take public transportation. Some may cycle to work. More physical activities are good in weight control.
- Also, many things are becoming more expensive, including meals in restaurant. Petrol cost normally creates the chain effect – transportation cost increases, many things becoming more expensive and customers end up paying extra. Therefore, more people prepare meals for lunch box, eat out less and having dinner at home in an effort to save money to pay for the increased cost of gas.
Not a bad study considering the student got the idea when he himself was filling up his car at the pump. So, the next time when people are complaining about the gas price, tell them the increase may help their wallet and waistline, provided they walk more and eat in more.
However, it is a matter of time people are getting used to the high price of gas. The old habit tends to kick in after some time.
I hope government will not use this reason to justify the increase of gasoline prices. “We care for your weight problem, therefore we increase the petrol and gas price.” No, better not. I am thinking out loud, may be, just may be, if the government really cares for our health, government should impose tax on unhealthy foods (like fast food, ice cream and other junk foods) and take that money to subsidy on the gas price increase?
I still believe that there is no quick fix to obesity problem and the research does not really conclude whether increased fuel cost will have a positive or negative net impact on social welfare. Gas price is not the solution, whether with or without intention. The solution should come from the person himself.
And now, please reduce the petrol price and don’t ever increase it again!
Category: Weight Loss
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