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Are you what you eat? Experimental evidence on riskpreferences and health habits

Galizzi, Matteo M. and Miraldo, Marisa (2012) Are you what you eat? Experimental evidence on riskpreferences and health habits. Discussion Paper (2012/04). Imperial College London. Business School, London, UK.

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We run an experiment to assess whether preferences for risk significantly differ for individuals with different health habits and not extreme health conditions. We administrate a questionnaire followed by an experimental test to a sample of 120 young subjects in the UK population. The questionnaire measures health characteristics and life style, and assesses details about individual nutritional balance, drinking, smoking and physical exercise. We construct a number of individual health and nutritional indexes, including the Healthy Eating Index (HEI) based on the USDA guidelines. We use HEI as a measure to complement the Body Mass Index (BMI), that has been criticised from many parts as a poor indicator of the overall nutritional and health quality of diet, especially for subjects with not extreme health conditions. We elicit preferences for risk using variants of the Holt and Laury (2002a) paired lotteries incentive-compatible test. Using Maximum Likelihood methods, we estimate risk preferences for the subjects in our sample, allowing risk aversion to vary with individual health and life style variables. We observe that risk preferences significantly differ between young male and female subjects with different health habits. In particular, male smokers do not appear to be characterized by significantly different preferences towards risk when compared to male non smokers. Moreover, while there is no significant association for females, male subjects with higher BMI tend to be more risk-seeking. The association of BMI with risk preferences, however, disappears when the analysis directly controls for the quality of individual diet with the inclusion of the HEI, or of other related sub-indexes: subjects with better nutritional habits tend to be more risk averse. We also find association between drinking habits and risk preferences for young female subjects. We relate our experimental evidence to the discussion of how to inform the design of health policies targeting risky behaviour in the early phases of adult life, when prevention campaigns are more likely to succeed.

Item Type: Monograph (Discussion Paper)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2012 The Authors
Divisions: Social Policy
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
Date Deposited: 19 Feb 2015 14:39
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2023 23:28

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