Socio-economic determinants of health and physical fitness in southern Ethiopia

Ayal Kimhi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The dependence of health and physical fitness on the socio-economic factors of rural families in southern Ethiopia is investigated, with particular emphasis on the role of inequality. This paper contributes to our knowledge of the effect of inequality on health in several ways: it compares the results of objective and subjective health measures, it distinguishes between wealth inequality and nutrition inequality, and it evaluates the impact of nutrition inequality both at the village level and at the household level. The subjective health measures are the number of days respondents were ill during the last month, their ability to walk distances, their ability to carry heavy loads, and their ability to work in the field. The objective health measure is having Body Mass Index (BMI) lower than 18.5. Males are healthier than females. Height has a positive and significant effect on health and fitness and the same is true for per-capita wealth measured at the village level. Availability of satisfactory health facilities has a negative effect on morbidity. Per-capita wealth inequality is positively associated with morbidity and with a low BMI. Within-household nutrition inequality has a complex effect on health and physical fitness: the effect is negative, but only for household members whose nutritional status is above the household mean. The results indicate a clear positive effect of economic well-being on health and physical fitness. The role of inequality is less clear, and certainly deserves further analyses at both the theoretical and empirical levels.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)55-75
Number of pages21
JournalEconomics and Human Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2003

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a grant from NIRP, The Netherlands, Israel Development Research Program, and by the Center for Agricultural Economic Research. I thank John Komlos, an anonymous referee, participants of the First International Conference on Economics and Human Biology, and seminar participants at the Hebrew University for helpful suggestions.


  • Health
  • Nutrition inequality
  • Physical fitness
  • Wealth inequality


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