Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Neuroticism Mediates the Relationship Between Industrial History and Modern-Day Regional Obesity Levels

Daly, Michael and Obschonka, Martin and Stuetzer, Michael and Sutin, Angelina and Shaw-Taylor, Leigh and Satchell, Max and Robinson, Eric (2019): Neuroticism Mediates the Relationship Between Industrial History and Modern-Day Regional Obesity Levels. Published in: Journal of Personality , Vol. 89, No. 2 (2021): pp. 267-287.

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Abstract

Objective: The historical factors and contemporary mechanisms underlying geographical inequalities in obesity levels remain uncertain. In this study we examine whether modern regional variation in obesity is partly a result of the impact of large-scale industry on the personality traits of those living in regions once at the center of the Industrial Revolution. Method: Exposure to the effects of the Industrial Revolution was assessed using unique historical data from English/Welsh counties (N=111). Specifically, we examined the relationship between the regional employment share in large-scale coal-based industries in 1813-1820 and contemporary regional obesity levels (2013-2015). The Big Five personality traits and regional unemployment levels were examined as potential mediators of this association. Results: The historical regional employment share in large-scale industries positively predicted the modern-day regional prevalence of obesity. Mediation analysis showed that areas exposed to the decline of large-scale industries experienced elevated neuroticism and unemployment levels that explained almost half of the association between the historical dominance of large-scale industry and modern-day obesity levels. Conclusions: Our results provide initial evidence that raised regional neuroticism levels may play a key role in explaining why exposure to the rapid growth and subsequent decline of large-scale industries forecasts modern-day obesity levels.

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