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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Obesity Fueled by Cheap Gas?

It's summertime, and that usually means high gas prices. If your employees face a long commute, they're surely feeling the pinch. But according to a recent article in Forbes magazine, cheap gasoline may actually have an unexpected side effect: unhealthy Americans.

Charles Courtemanche, an economist at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, studied health care statistics and compared them to the rise and fall of gas prices over time. He found that obesity rates rose as the price of gasoline fell.

When gas is expensive, Courtemanche says, people tend to walk or bicycle whenever possible. They use public transportation (which requires walking to and from bus stops) and they eat out less often. Some people may even reevaluate where they live and work to avoid driving.

Although excessively high gas prices would probably cause economic havoc in the short run, it's interesting to ponder the positive long-term changes we might make as a society. For example, police are already reviving the "foot patrol" to save gas, which some argue is a more effective way to fight crime.

If gas prices went sky-high, how would you adapt? What changes would you make? Let me know in the comments section.


Anonymous said...

You've inadvertently mischaracterized the findings:

"He found that obesity rates rose with the price of gasoline"

No, he found a significant INVERSE relationship, gas up, obesity down, not one rising "with" the other.

Fiona Gathright said...

Right you are! The post has been corrected.