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Appetite. 2016 May 1;100:162-71. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2016.01.028. Epub 2016 Jan 22.

Poverty, inequality, and increased consumption of high calorie food: Experimental evidence for a causal link.

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University of St. Andrews, United Kingdom; Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium. Electronic address:
University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom.
Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium.
Centre for Ethical Leadership, University of Melbourne, Australia.


Rising obesity represents a serious, global problem. It is now well established that obesity is associated with poverty and wealth inequality, suggesting that these factors may promote caloric intake. Whereas previous work has examined these links from an epidemiological perspective, the current paper examined them experimentally. In Study 1 we found that people experimentally induced to view themselves as poor (v. wealthy) exhibited increased calorie intake. In Study 2, participants who believed that they were poorer or wealthier than their interaction partners exhibited higher levels of anxiety compared to those in an equal partners condition; this anxiety in turn led to increased calorie consumption for people who had a strong need to belong. The findings provide causal evidence for the poverty-intake and inequality-intake links. Further, we identify social anxiety and a strong need to belong as important social psychological factors linking inequality to increased calorie intake.


Anxiety; Food; Inequality; Obesity; Poverty

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