The Effects of Household Technology on Body Mass Index among Chinese Adults

Chih Chien Huang, Scott T. Yabiku, Jennie J. Kronenfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Current public obesity intervention focuses on promoting programs that encourage exercise and healthy eating. Our study emphasizes that rapid technological changes may also have the potential to lead to obesity epidemics. This research investigates whether household technology launched in China during the last two decades has the potential to cause increases in body mass index (BMI). We hypothesize that adopting household technology is a contributory factor in BMI increase, independent of daily calorie consumption and energy expenditure in exercise. To test this hypothesis, we use longitudinal data from individuals aged 18–55 who participated in the 1997–2009 China Health and Nutrition Survey. Linear fixed-effects regression captures the effects of the dynamic processes of adopting household technology on BMI. All analyses are stratified by gender. The results show that adopting computers or air conditioners is associated with BMI increases in men, while adopting washing machines promotes BMI increases in women. Having a computer is associated with a decrease in BMI for women. Food-preparation technologies, such as refrigerators, microwaves, rice makers, and pressure cookers, are associated with BMI increases for both men and women. This study suggests that household technology ownership and BMI increases are linked, whereas changes in overall energy intake and exercise may not function as mediators for this relationship. Future public health policy may evaluate interventions focused on increasing low-intensity activities impacted by household technologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)877-899
Number of pages23
JournalPopulation Research and Policy Review
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 19 2015


  • Body mass index
  • China Health and Nutrition Survey (CHNS)
  • Fixed-effects approach
  • Household technology
  • Longitudinal study
  • Obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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