Obesity russia

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The Rise of Obesity in Transition Economies:
Theory and Evidence from the Russian Longitudinal Monitoring Survey

Sonya K. Huffman* and Marian Rizov

No 119
April 2007
The Rise of Obesity in Transition Economies:
Theory and Evidence from the Russian Longitudinal Monitoring Survey
Sonya K. Huffman*
Department of Economics, Iowa State University

Marian Rizov
MiddlesexUniversity Business School
March 23, 2007

This study integrates theoretical and empirical models to facilitate understanding of human obesity and the factors contributing to rising obesity in Russia during the transition from a planned to a market economy. Recent individual level data from the Russian Longitudinal Monitoring Survey for 1994 and 2004 show that diet/caloric intake,smoking, gender and education are important determinants of obesity in Russia. Empirical results strongly support our model for production of health and demand for inputs in the health production function. The analysis provides information on dietary patterns and other determinants of obesity which is essential for formulation and implementation of effective policies designed to improve overallnutritional wellbeing and reduce obesity and mortality of the population. Interventions, which enhance education toward healthy lifestyles and healthy diet, could play a vital role in preventing obesity in Russia.

JEL Classification: D10, I12, J01
Keywords: health, obesity, transition economies, Russia

The Rise of Obesity in Transition Economies:
Theory and Evidence from the RussianLongitudinal Monitoring Survey

1. Introduction
Since the early 1990s series of reforms have been implemented in transition economies. Economic reforms aiming at increase in efficiency comprised price liberalization, privatization and enterprise restructuring. However, the reforms also brought dramatic changes in all areas of the population’s life. Important side effects were increase inunemployment and poverty, additional stress and uncertainty, rising crime, and fall in living standards, for certain groups of the population. As a result, the population in transition economies experienced dramatic changes in lifestyle and a significant decline in life expectancy.
The adverse effects of transition were most severe in the Former Soviet Union. Several studies examine the reasons forthe mortality crisis in Russia and other former Soviet republics (Breinerd and Cutler, 2005; Cockerham, 2000; Shkolnikov et al., 2004). Breinerd and Cutler show that during the 1990s greater alcohol consumption was an important determinant of higher mortality rates in Russia. The increased stress from the transition to a market economy had dramatically affected the lifestyle and the diet of thepopulation as well. Furthermore, the authors find that across households rising human obesity has important health consequences and is a significant predictor of mortality, however, the magnitude of the effect is small. Stillman (2006) reviews the literature examining health outcomes in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union during the transition period and also points out to the link betweenobesity and health outcomes.
Obesity has reached epidemic proportions globally, with more than 1 billion adults overweight, and at least 300 million of them clinically obese (WHO, 2006). Obesity has become a major contributor to the global burden of chronic diseases and disability. The health consequences range from increased risk of premature death to serious chronic conditions that reducethe overall quality of life. The emerging and transition economies, including Russia, had the highest number of diabetics in 1995 (WHO, 2006). Therefore, a greater understanding of the rise in obesity and its determinants in transition economies could lead to important policy recommendations for reducing the problem and improving the health of the population.
The risk of obesity is...