This article investigates to what extent the worldwide increase in body mass index (BMI) has been affected by economic globalization and inequality. We used time-series and longitudinal cross-national analysis of 127 countries from 1980 to 2008. Data on mean adult BMI were obtained from the Global Burden of Metabolic Risk Factors of Chronic Diseases Collaborating Group. Globalization was measured using the Swiss Economic Institute (KOF) index of economic globalization. Economic inequality between countries was measured with the mean difference in gross domestic product per capita purchasing power parity in international dollars. Economic inequality within countries was measured using the Gini index from the Standardized World Income Inequality Database. Other covariates including poverty, population size, urban population, openness to trade and foreign direct investment were taken from the World Development Indicators (WDI) database. Time-series regression analyses showed that the global increase in BMI is positively associated with both the index of economic globalization and inequality between countries, after adjustment for covariates. Longitudinal panel data analyses showed that the association between economic globalization and BMI is robust after controlling for all covariates and using different estimators. The association between economic inequality within countries and BMI, however, was significant only among high-income nations. More research is needed to study the pathways between economic globalization and BMI. These findings, however, contribute to explaining how contemporary globalization can be reformed to promote better health and control the global obesity epidemic.
- income inequality
- trade liberalization and foreign direct investment
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health