Gallup's Stunning Explanation For America's Unemployment Epidemic: Obesity

Tyler Durden's picture

Two things became abundantly clear during today's Yellen press conference: i) the Fed no longer has any idea what it is doing, or where it is steering the economy, exemplified by the Chairwoman's response that she has little "confidence" in the Fed's current set of forecasts (because one can be wrong only for so long about the economy before one indeed loses all confidence in one's abilities), however since everyone is benefiting for now as the asset bubble is still growing and asset prices are still rising, there is nothing the Fed will change about its current line of action and ii) the Fed has no idea how or why unemployment - as massaged as it may be courtesy of tens of millions of Americans dropping out of the labor force - is as high and as structural as it is.

Of course, all of this should have been quite obvious to everyone else years ago when trillion after trillion in excess liquidity did nothing to stimulate the economy (as can be seen in the -2.0% GDP Q1 GDP is set to print in its final revision), and certainly nothing to boost employment, particularly long-term unemployment - those who are out of work for 12 months or more - to above-consensus levels.

So it appears there is something far more structural with America's long-term unemployment problem, something not even the "smartest academics in the (Marriner Eccles) room" can diagnose. Surprisingly, earlier today Gallup reported one factor that may be contributing to America's unemployment malaise - the same problem that is the reason for the insolvent US welfare state coffers: obesity.

According to Gallup, Americans who have been out of work for a year or more are much more likely to be obese than those unemployed for a shorter time. The obesity rate rises from 22.8% among those unemployed for two weeks or less to 32.7% among those unemployed for 52 weeks or more.

How does Gallup keep track of the Body Mass Index of America's millions of unemployed?

Gallup tracks U.S. obesity levels daily using Americans' self-reported height and weight to calculate body mass index (BMI) scores as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. Individuals with BMI scores of 30 or higher are considered obese. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index also tracks the percentages of Americans who report that they have ever been diagnosed with various health conditions related to obesity, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.


These results are based on nearly 5,000 interviews throughout 2013 with the long-term unemployed (defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as being unemployed for 27 weeks or more) and more than 13,000 interviews with the short-term unemployed (those out of work for less than 27 weeks).


Gallup and Healthways also track the percentages of Americans who say they currently have or are being treated for health conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. In both cases, the differences between the short-term unemployed and the long-term unemployed are striking: Those who have been jobless for 27 weeks or more are nearly twice as likely to say they currently have high blood pressure, and to say they have high cholesterol.

Gallup's shocking finding: Americans who have been unemployed for less than 27 weeks are somewhat less likely than those with jobs to have each of these conditions.

But is unemployment the cause of obesity, or vice versa, are the obese Americans simply more unwilling to look for work, or are just considered less "attractive", less hireable, and more of a "health insurance cost" threat to potential employers?

While these results offer evidence of a strong relationship between unemployment and obesity-related health concerns, the causal direction is not clear. Unemployment may cause some people to engage in behaviors that lead to health problems, while pre-existing health conditions may make it harder for others to find and keep work. For many individuals, both dynamics may be at work, perpetuating a negative cycle of declining job prospects and worsening health.

Gallup observes that jobless Americans may be more likely to fall into such a cycle if a higher incidence of health problems hinders their efforts to find a good job. Those out of work for 27 weeks or more report experiencing an average of 4.7 days out of the past 30 when poor health kept them from doing their usual activities. That compares with an average of 2.8 lower-productivity days for those unemployed for a shorter period, and just 1.4 days for full-time workers.

Over the longer term, one of the most worrisome implications of these relationships is that many of those who have been unemployed for a prolonged period may suffer chronic health problems even if they successfully re-enter the workforce. A 2009 study of Pennsylvania workers laid off in the 1970s and 1980s found that even 20 years later, these workers were 10% to 15% more likely to die in a given year than those who had not suffered a job loss.

Gallup's conclusion:

With record-setting rates of long-term unemployment in most U.S. states, the health consequences of extended periods of joblessness have become a rising concern for policymakers. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index makes it possible to examine health and well-being conditions associated with long-term unemployment more closely than is possible using smaller-scale studies. Importantly, the tracking data can be aggregated to produce the large sample sizes necessary for studying well-being among specific employment groups.

One key concern raised by the current analysis is that employers in industries that require manual labor, such as manufacturing and construction, may be less likely to hire candidates who are clearly out of shape. If so, workers in these industries -- who already earn lower wages, on average, than those in knowledge-based sectors -- may be even more likely to be caught in a negative cycle of joblessness and poor health.

And there is another aspect, one where Obamacare also comes into play: private employers' high healthcare costs might lead them to avoid taking chances on those who pose greater health risks, particularly in a tenuous economic climate. As a result, candidates who are obese and who have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more may have two strikes against them even before they sit down for an interview.

So perhaps instead of dumping trillions into the stock market in hopes this record "wealth", already accruing to the wealthiest 1%, will trickle down to the average American, a far better use of the Fed's cash would be to launch weight-loss initiatives for America's record obese population: perhaps offering a monthly prize of $1,000 for every 10 pounds that Joe Sixpack manages to lose, and keep off every month. While it is arguable if this will help solve America's unemployment (and obesity) problems, it certainly will lower US healthcare costs in the long-run, and will also make for a far more fit population... At least until those who are not obese and also can't find a job accuse the Fed of discriminating against them.

Of course, considering the efficacy of the Fed's behavioral experiment this could simply backfire and force ever more Americans to become obese in hopes they too will be "subsidized" by free taxpayer money to lose said weight.

Perhaps, in retrospect, there is no fixing these two intertwined problems. Which leads to a sad conclusion: America's population may be increasingly unemployed, but at least it's fat...

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algol_dog's picture

Not far fetched -

john39's picture

not to worry. our owners already have a solution planned.  starve the masses, that will fix the obesity and unemployment issues at the same time.

RevRex's picture

So Gallup is now in the business of fondling Obama's dick......nice!

Anusocracy's picture

21st Century America: the morbidly obese ruled by the morbidly evil.

NoDebt's picture

Morbid obesity is a valid SSI disability claim reason.  Thorw in a little Type II diabetes and you're home free.  Just sayin'.

Trying to pick out cause and effect in this kinda stuff is like trying to pick fly shit out of pepper. Nobody wants to address the real problems so we all sit around working on meaningless marginal issues like this that will NEVER fix what's wrong.

Oh regional Indian's picture

I'm discovering that Data might be our biggest addiction....and will make you fat, too much of it.

Flakmeister's picture

The lack of understanding needed to identify what is important and what is not is sorely lacking, it starts with a grasp of statistics and the rudiments of calculus...

BLOTTO's picture

Whether your not working or working too much, on anti depressants, stressed, angry, happy, drunk, high, etc... - you eat.


At least dont bug me and leave me in peace while i just try to enjoy my burger and fries...

wee-weed up's picture

I'd like to hear that blivit, Larry Summers', opinion on this.

Headbanger's picture

No no no Flakmeister...

It's all about THERMODYNAMICS!

First Law:  What goes in must come out

Second Law:  Shit MUST happen to make shit happen


And don't forget PV = nRT and you can't push a string (unless it's frozen)

Any questions??

knukles's picture

Oh fuck me, mate.  Not another political meme being supported by the MSM Propaganda and Perceptions Management Orifice
Not that Americans are obese as a nation.
But can't work?

Blow me.

TruthHunter's picture

"starts with a grasp of statistics and the rudiments of calculus..."

  Bush needed history, not calculus to stay out Iraq.

Money and politics approved Aspartame, not statistics. 


"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"


Urban Redneck's picture

I guess Americans "understand" they didn't have a noticeable obesity problem back in 2006 back when there was no noticeable unemployment problem.

Fucktards who fail LOGIC and REASON apparently no longer even need to be misdirected with irrelevant correlations.

Dewey Cheatum Howe's picture

Exactly if anything if history is a guide there are less fat and in general healthier people when times are tough. Doesn't mean they are happier but they are fitter in general. No shortage of meatball heads back in 2006 if anything more of them existed then than now.

This is typical of shallow self centered societies looking for someone or something else to blame to make themselves feel better about themselves without having to look in the mirror and see something wrong with themselves. This clownshow needs to eat itself alive for any real resolution at this point. Trying to save it will only make it worse at this point.

Flakmeister's picture

For some time now obesity has tracked with being lower on the socio-economic ladder.... 

Well off people tend not to live on high HFCS diets and highly processed crap..

But I agree the analysis is likely not controlling for well known effects and in essence is simply showing that those at the bottom are getting fucked and they happen to be more likely to be fat because they are already at the bottom...

Urban Redneck's picture

There are too many sickening correlations- HFCS, antibiotics (directly and through bio-magnification), GMO, sedentary lifestyles, normalization of self-destructive behaviors and traits...

If the socio-economic ladder actually was a ladder, there would be competition, both to climb it and to remain on top. So it doesn't bode well for the well-being of the artificially well-off on a slightly longer timeline.

Pumpkin's picture

Morbid obesity is a valid SSI disability claim reason.  Thorw in a little Type II diabetes and you're home free.  Just sayin'.


Morbid obesity? Hey MFr, I'll have you know I've lost 3lbs since they took that picture.

sessinpo's picture

NoDebt    Morbid obesity is a valid SSI disability claim reason.  Thorw in a little Type II diabetes and you're home free.  Just sayin'.


And they make great targets. Fat and slow. Just sayin'.

Obese-Redneck's picture

Have you ever cracked a toilet by sitting on it?

You might be a redneck.

mrpxsytin's picture

Real beer?

Why must you put corn syrup in your beer? Is there nothing sacred left in the USA diet?!

Government needs you to pay taxes's picture

They dont want to design the oven doors to be super wide.  For once, the sheep are too fat for the slaughter.

sessinpo's picture

Government need...    They dont want to design the oven doors to be super wide.  For once, the sheep are too fat for the slaughter.


No one is to fat to be slaughtered.

El Oregonian's picture

Sounds like the solution is to feed the economy with actual healthy growth instead of starving it as it is the case today.

I'd rather have a fat economy and lean workers which is the opposite of what we have now...

sessinpo's picture

RevRex   So Gallup is now in the business of fondling Obama's dick......nice!


Gallop wasn't before? Where have you been?

Obese-Redneck's picture

Have you ever had to chop up yer wife's dump with a knife to flush it?

Well son, you might be a redneck

NidStyles's picture

If they were going to starve them, they wouldn't be handing out EBT's.

john39's picture

the processed GMO goodness that the poor for the most part buy with EBT cards isn't really food... in fact, it would be more accurate to say, its all part of the eugenics play.

nmewn's picture

Plus one.

So the REAL question the "do-gooders" need to ask the state is why it is allowed?

Oh regional Indian's picture

True John, We really are what we eat. Air, water, fire (food) and media....

The georgia guidestone conspiracy theory is fast looking like conspiracy fact, eh?



john39's picture

The truth is too terrible for most to believe.  Too see it clearly, you have to step back, and taken an extreme long term view.  Tough to do when most of recorded history is lies and distortions.

Oh regional Indian's picture

It is John. I'm just, for the first time reading The Secret Doctrine by Helena Blavatsky.... and my mind is well and truly blown.

And here I thought I was in-formed.....

Wheels with-in wheels into the inky blackness of the deep past.

One continuous story...

john39's picture

i hear you ORI.  Once upon a time, this sort of knowledge was more wide spread, and there was more of a balence between light and dark.  In these times (Kali yuga) darkness predominates, and dark possessed people thrive.  they have all but over run the entire planet.  time to flip the switch?  stay tuned...

knukles's picture

Why anyone gives a reddie to this thread concerning the guidestones theory/etc., is just beyond me.
Some pretty conventional thinking stuck in deep ruts around here.

jbvtme's picture

Blavatsky wrote "Isis Unveiled"?

Oh regional Indian's picture

yes, her. theosophy founder,,,

Harbanger's picture

I would like to believe that, but "trust me", you're eating GMO food now that's been labeled organic and paying extra.  If you can't trust the Gov in general, why would you trust their labels and methods?  Feel good, that's why.  I bought some strawberries at wholefoods that were the size of lemons and labeled organic, organic my ass, strawberries don't grow that big and certainly not on a commercial farm.  Big tasteless empty shells taht were no match to the taste of a real strawberry.  Grow your own food if you want organic.  The bulk of your food is produced by large scale commercial farmers that have just as many connections to Govt bureaucracy as any other industry in crony USSA.  The reason people are fat is because they eat crappy processed food.  They ate crap before, now they have the ability to eat more of it.

new game's picture

right on question-how can there be so much organic food when most of the lsnd is monsantoized? another fucking sham...

BeansMcGreens's picture

.....and the gmo crops are crossing with natural plants. An example is gmo rice to natural, wild rice. Remember, no plant has been "created" by man, only hybridized and improved. The round-up ready crops you eat such as soy beans and corn products, are being sprayed with round-up herbicide. Agent Orange for everyone.

quasimodo's picture

Farmers markets are really gaining in popularity around here, even amongst all the GMO corn and soybean fields in IA. 

I have a garden, but we tend to buy local produce when we can. Real chickens raised in those portable "tractors", grass fed beef, etc.

It is spendy, yes...but worth every penny feeling better physically as a family and feeling good about knowing what we eat, to some degree, is grown around here.

The_Ungrateful_Yid's picture

Fuck that I'll Off myself before I starve...

Harbanger's picture

Something tells you'd off the guy next to you before you starve.  Just a gut feeling but I've been in that situation and it takes a strong constitution.

LuciusGermanicus's picture

You'll have the starvation index to contend with.

mrpxsytin's picture

I keep telling you guys to get to Australia:

What is it going to take for you to make the shift?!! 

J S Bach's picture

Every time I see or think about the hippopotamus americanus, I can't help but think of that animated movie, "Wall-E" where the descendants of earth reside on some far-away planet as totally obese beings that can't even get out of their beds without the aid of a robot.  We're getting there.  It's a sure sign of the decadent and inevitable decline of a spoiled rotten country.  If this is the majority of "man-power" that will be at hand to re-build after the fall -- God help us all.

James Dandy's picture

Somebody else on ZH referred to them as American land whales today or yesterday.  LMAO, how are they supposed to know all by themselves they can't survive on chips and corn syrup?

Postal's picture

hippopotamus americanus

LMAO! True. I haven't laughed so hard in ages.