This is a study of the impact of obesity and socioeconomic status on the incidence of hypertension among the elderly (60+) in Montevideo, Uruguay. Based on data from the Survey on Health, Wellbeing and Aging (SABE project, PAHO-WHO), we estimated a bivariate probit model, controlling for the potential endogeneity of obesity. The results confirm that the joint estimation of the two outcomes is suitable, and this led us to the conclusion that being obese raises the probability of suffering from hypertension by 50 percentage points. This effect should have been understated in the probit estimation. In addition, the instruments selected to pick up religiosity, smoking and eating habits were significant and valid, and had with the expected coefficient signs. Tobacco consumption reduces the probability of being obese, which indicates either that the metabolism of smokers is different in a way that makes them burn more calories than non-smokers, or that smokers tend to ingest less food due to the well-known appetite-suppressant effect of tobacco. On the other hand, the results show a positive association between obesity and religiosity, which probably indicates that religion acts as a form of support once the problem is present rather than as a mechanism of self-control or disapproval. Finally, the thermic effect of food is confirmed, since the more meals a person eats per day, the less the probability of being obese. The results do not show a significant association between poor health, measured through morbidity (the presence of chronic disease or hypertension), and low socioeconomic status. The variable that captures socioeconomic status is positive and statistically significant in the obese equation, so the negative effects on health status of a worse socioeconomic status might operate through nutritional outcomes. On the other hand, there might be a problem of selection bias, since individuals of lower strata are more prone to early death (the survival effect), and the public provision of health services with an emphasis on the elderly reduces the gap between purchasing power and access to health care services.
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