Labour and Public Policy Seminar: Eskild Klausen Fredslund, University of Southern Denmark

Title: Time preferences and health behavior – Can time-preferences explain attendance to the gym?

2017.09.27 | Bodil Krog

Date Fri 24 Nov
Time 12:15 13:00
Location Fuglesangs Allé 4, 8210 Aarhus V, building 2621(B), room 04

Presenter: Eskild Klausen Fredslund, University of Southern Denmark

Title: Time preferences and health behavior – Can time-preferences explain attendance to the gym? (with Dorte Gyrd-Hansen and Morten Raun Mørkbak)

Abstract:
Background:
More than one in seven Danes is a member of a fitness center. This makes working out in a fitness center one of the most popular ways to exercise in Denmark. Anecdotal evidence suggests that it can be difficult to reach one's goals regarding the amount of exercise performed.
The decision to go to the gym involves tradeoffs between the benefits and costs of working out. A highly important aspect of the decision is that it is an intertemporal choice - the costs are immediate, whereas most benefits arise in the near or distant future.
In this paper we analyze whether present biasedness (impulsivity) and discounting (long term impatience) as captured by quasi-hyperbolic discounting can explain exercise behavior or whether other factors are the main driver of the decision.

Sample: The sample consists of 911 members of the Danish chain of fitness centers fitness dk. Survey data on time preferences was collected in February and March 2016, while individual registry data on actual visits was provided by fitness dk, through their swiping system. Respondents were recruited using the fitness dk newsletter.

Measures: The survey consisted of a series of stated preference matching questions regarding tradeoffs between benefits now or later. Actual exercise behavior was monitored in the gym for at least six months to enable analysis on the outcome measure: total number of visits to the gym. Finally, benefits and barriers influencing the choice of going to the gym were measured through the index developed by Huppertz et al. (2013). We included ten questions relating to potential benefits and ten questions related to barriers.

Results: The results show a significant correlation between time preferences and number of visits – individuals who discount future benefits more tend to visit the gym less frequently. Further, we observe negative correlation between present biasedness and number of visits, but only for individuals with low utility costs of going to the gym.

Conclusion: In a simple regression model the discount rate offers some explanatory power of exercise behavior. When including barriers and benefits of working out in an interaction model it seems that low benefits and/or high costs of going to the gym override any impact of time preferences, but that an effect of present biasedness can be observed for individuals who do not face other barriers.  

Organizer: Niels Skipper

Labour and Public Policy Seminars