Does social globalisation through access to information communication technologies drive obesity among youth? An empirical analysis, 1990–2013
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionGlobal Public Health. 2019, 14 (12), 1911-1926. 10.1080/17441692.2019.1652335
Scholars debate the effects of globalisation on obesity. Using the latest data on access to ICTs and the Global Burden of Disease data on excess weight gain and obesity, we find that both social globalisation and access to ICTs lower the overweight and obese share among the global youth cohort aged 15–19. Previous studies report mixed results, which are hard to evaluate because of the use of different data, sample sizes, and estimating strategies. Using fixed-effects analyses on a global sample of over 160 countries spanning 24 years, we show that ‘social globalization’ reduces the obesity share of youth when fixed effects are estimated. Greater access to ICTs also independently lowers youth obesity rates. We speculate that greater access to information and knowledge about current trends, the benefits of physical activity and diet, and trends in healthy consumption spreading through ICTs might be a boon despite risks associated with greater consumption from increasing wealth and political freedoms. These results are robust to several estimating methods, including instrumental variables analysis. Our results suggest that increased access to ICTs does not increase obesity and that policy might even usefully target youth via ICTs for encouraging better health.