Academic suggests link between obesity in places such as Fenland with people voting to leave the EU

Link between obesity and how we voted?

Link between obesity and how we voted? - Credit: Archant

An academic at the University of East Anglia (UEA) has suggested there was a link between obesity and people voting to leave the EU in last week’s referendum.

Peter Ormosi, a senior lecturer in competition economics at UEA’s Norwich Business School, looked at district level census data, and found a 10pc increase in the number of obese people lead to a 6pc increase in the number of Leave votes.

In a blog post ‘The weight of Brexit: Obese adults leading the way out of Europe’, Dr Ormosi wrote: “Areas with high obesity levels were much more likely to vote Leave even when controlling for income, health, education, economic activity.”

A table showed the 10 areas with the highest Brexit votes, including Great Yarmouth and Fenland, which also had high obesity rates.

Dr Ormosi wrote: “It is unlikely being overweight itself affects people’s voting preferences. Instead this is probably driven by personality traits that characterise both Leave voters and obese adults.


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“A Swiss study on obesity and personality traits reveals five important personality traits that affect eating disorders. Extrovert, open, conscientious, and agreeable people are less likely to have eating disorders, and neurotic people are more likely to have such disorders.

“So can we jump to the conclusion that Leave voters are less likely to be extrovert, open, conscientious, or agreeable, and more likely to be neurotic?”

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He cited a study arguing personality traits are indeed important drivers of voters’ preference.

He added: “It would be naive to think that body-weight determines voting preferences. But body-weight and life-style choices are things that we can easily measure. If we know the sort of personality traits these physical characteristics imply, it could help us understand the psychology of voters much better.

“Certainly worth further exploring.”

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