Neuroticism mediates the relationship between industrial history and modern-day regional obesity levels

Type Article

Journal Article


M. Daly; M. Obschonka; M. Stuetzer; A. R. Sutin; L. Shaw-Taylor; M. Satchell; E. Robinson

Year of publication



J Pers








OBJECTIVE: The historical factors and contemporary mechanisms underlying geographical inequalities in obesity levels remain uncertain. In this study, we examine whether modern regional variation in obesity is partly a result of the impact of large-scale industry on the personality traits of those living in regions once at the center of the Industrial Revolution. METHOD: Exposure to the effects of the Industrial Revolution was assessed using unique historical data from English/Welsh counties (N = 111). Specifically, we examined the relationship between the regional employment share in large-scale coal-based industries in 1813-1820 and contemporary regional obesity levels (2013-2015). The Big Five personality traits and regional unemployment levels were examined as potential mediators of this association. RESULTS: The historical regional employment share in large-scale industries positively predicted the modern-day regional prevalence of obesity. Mediation analysis showed that areas exposed to the decline of large-scale industries experienced elevated Neuroticism and unemployment levels that explained almost half of the association between the historical dominance of large-scale industry and modern-day obesity levels. CONCLUSIONS: Our results provide initial evidence that raised regional Neuroticism levels may play a key role in explaining why exposure to the rapid growth and subsequent decline of large-scale industries forecasts modern-day obesity levels.