Gluttony and Sloth: Signs of Trouble or Evidence of Bliss?
Bednarek, Heather L. and Jeitschko, Thomas D. and Pecchenino, Rowena A. (2006) Gluttony and Sloth: Signs of Trouble or Evidence of Bliss? Contributions to Economic Analysis & Policy, 5 (1.6). pp. 1-42. ISSN 1538-0645
In a model of rational agent choice in which agents value consumption and leisure as well as health, we establish that individuals, unconstrained by concerns of income or time, can and will choose levels of consumption and leisure that exceed their physiological optima. By how much they exceed the optima depends on a variety of factors, most importantly, the utility cost (benefit) of achieving health. Observed positive long-run trends in adult weight, brought on by higher levels of consumption and lower levels of physical activity, often interpreted as a public health crisis in the making, can be explained by these factors. But, rather than the trend suggesting crisis, it suggests only optimal responses to altered, and perhaps improved, circumstances. While individuals today, all else equal, may weigh more than those a generation or two ago, they also may be happier.
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