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Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Fat, Sugar and Happiness, Taxing Issues Continued

Having written about junk food and instant Happiness a few days ago, I was startled to see an article about the very subject in the Sunday Times. It's topical, because David Cameron wants to know how happy we all are through establishing a General Well Being Index and by seeing how this changes as our financial environment evolves.

Cognitive therapists say that heaven and hell exist only in our own minds, but many writers make a direct link between economic circumstances and our perceived quality of life. What frustrates me is the lack of good information about the link between economic QOL and obesity, although a link is implied only via the effects of prosperity, eating styles and activity levels. The factor that is not taken into account is the link between purchasing junk food behaviour and general levels of well-being.

Social research suggests that Happiness is tied to local issues, such as the view from one's window, the number of street lights, the presence of trees in the road and the number of addicts in the local population. We have already been told that people walk more in avenues and on precincts with flowers than they do in graffiti covered streets. But no one made the direct link between impulsive eating and  Happiness because its probably too fluffy to take seriously. Do people with nice views from their window eat less fat and sugar than those who look out over a row of semis?

No-one seems to have an answer to the obesity epidemic, despite a raft of Govenment initiatives such as Fit For Life. The British Psychological Society is about to come up with a working paper on obesity, lets see what they can up with which is new. We are fine on theory and could do better with practical strategies I believe, so far. Paul Ormerod, economist and author of Why Most Things Fail suggests that we just don't take some things into account when we target problem behaviour such as overeating or under-exercising. And we cant even agree what the real problem with obesity is - greed or sloth - so if we cant figure it out, our patients havent got a hope.

So back to the tax on sugar and fat. It's not too nebulous a concept to put into practice. Let's start with soft drinks and all the sugar in baby food and cereals. Email me at admin@ncfed.com if you would like to have your point of view.

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