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Will Low Oil Prices Lead To An Obesity Spike In Alberta?



Oil-Barrels-with-Red-Arrow-740There is no doubt that the low oil price is pummelling the Alberta economy.

According to the Alberta economic dashboard, in October 2015, Alberta’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 6.6%, up from the 4.4% rate a year earlier and from last month’s 6.5% rate. The youth unemployment rate was 11.6%, up from last year’s 9.0% rate, while male unemployment increased precipitously from 3.6% last October to 7.3% this year.

As no one seems to be expecting a rosier future for this industry, it may well be that many who lost their jobs in the wake of mass oil patch layoffs, will find the coming months (not to mention the festive season) both economically and emotionally challenging.

According to this report, suicide rates from January to June in Alberta this year are up 30% compared to the same period in 2014.

One challenge that may escape notice is the fact that this situation may also lead to significant weight gain in those affected.

Depression, anxiety, food insecurity, insomnia and simply being unable to afford healthy food are all important risk factors for weight gain.

Indeed it is hard to imagine how going from a high-paying job to being unemployed with little immediate hope of recovery will affect families.

Maintaining a positive spirit – necessary for eating healthy, engaging in physical activity and healthy sleep – will clearly be a challenge.

So while it may take some time for “official” statistics regarding overweight and obesity to change, I would not be surprised to see numbers go up.

Unfortunately, when this happens, people putting on the extra pounds will likely face the same blame and shame for “making poor choices” as everyone else who is struggling with this problem faces everyday.

As medical professionals, we need to acknowledge that unemployment and the worries that come with it can make our patients more susceptible to weight gain – let us not miss the opportunity for prevention.

If you’ve been affected by the economic downturn and this is affecting your health, please feel free to leave a comment.

@DrSharma
Edmonton, AB

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