Bed Time Research Institute

Obesity, Transportation, & Fuel Consumption (2005-Present) 

Analyzing the relationship between obesity, transportations, and fuel consumption in the United States

Web Site: Driving Obesity

Video: CNBC Street Signs, Weighty Issue, 27 October 2006.

Papers Published

1.  Jacobson, S.H., McLay, L.A., 2006, “The Economic Impact of Obesity on Automobile Fuel Consumption," The Engineering Economist, 51(4), 307-323.

2.    Jacobson, S.H., King, D.M., 2009, “Measuring the Potential for Automobile Fuel Savings in the US: The Impact of Obesity,” Transportation Research Part D (Transport and Environment), 14(1), 6-13.

3.    Jacobson, S.H., King, D.M., 2009, “Fuel Saving and Ridesharing in the US: Motivations, Limitations, and Opportunities, Transportation Research Part D (Transport and Environment), 14(1), 14-21.

4.    Nikolaev, A.G., Robbins, M.J., Jacobson, S.H., 2010, “Evaluating the Impact of Legislation Prohibiting Hand-Held Cell Phone Use While Driving,” Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 44(3), 182-193.

5.    Jacobson, S. H., King, D. M., Yuan, R., 2011, “A Note on the Relationship Between Obesity and Driving” Transport Policy, 18(6), 772-776.

6.    King, D.M., Jacobson, S.H., Ryan, K., Robbins, M.J., 2012, “Assessing the Long Term Benefit of Hand-held Wireless Device Bans While Driving” Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 46(12), 1586-1593.

7.    Behzad, B., King, D.M., Jacobson, S.H., 2013, “Quantifying the Association Between Obesity, Automobile Travel, and Caloric Intake," Preventive Medicine, 56(2), 103-106.

8.    Behzad B., King D.M., Jacobson S.H., 2014, “Seatbelt usage: Is there an association with obesity?” Public Health, 128(9), 799-803.

9.    King, D.M., Jacobson, S.H. 2017, " What’s Driving Obesity?: A Review on the Connections Between Obesity and Motorized Transportation,” Current Obesity Reports, 6(1), 3-9.

10. She, Z., King, D.M., Jacobson, S.H. 2017, "Analyzing the Impact of Public Transit Usage on Obesity," Preventive Medicine, 99, 264-268.

11. She, Z., King, D. M., Jacobson, S. H. 2019, "Is Promoting Public Transit an Effective Intervention for Obesity? A longitudinal study of the relation between public transit usage and obesity,” Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 119, 162-169.


Selected Media Coverage

(27 November 2018) Study: Public transportation use linked to better public health.

(25 September 2018) So Many Cars: Why American Life Expectancy Falls Short (Mises Wire, Ryan McMaken) cites Sheldon H. Jacobson’s research on the association between obesity and automobile use.

(16 May 2017) Study: Higher mass transit use is associated with lower obesity rates based on the paper “Analyzing the impact of public transit usage on obesity,” which appeared in the Preventive Medicine (Volume 99, pages 264-268). See also Higher mass transit use linked with lower obesity rates (Amy Wallace, United Press International, 17 May 2017), Mass transit linked to lower obesity rates in study (Mary Caffrey, American Journal of Managed Care, 17 May 2017), What Scientists Found about Losing Weight and Obesity after Observing how People use Public Transportation (Harold Mandel, EmaxHealth, 17 May 2017), Using Public Transportation reduced obesity and makes people healthier  (Mihai Andrei, ZMEScience, 17 May 2017), All Aboard! Next Stop, Less Obesity (Tom Jacobs, Pacific Standard Magazine, 17 May 2017), MTA can help you lose weight (Ariel Scotti, New York Daily News, 17 May 2017), Using mass transit leads to drop in obesity rates, study finds (Christopher Maynard, Consumer Affairs, 17 May 2017), Investing in mass transit helps communities lower their obesity rates, study suggests (Susan Perry, MinnPost, 18 May 2017), The MTA can help you lose weight (John Daniels, The Informer, 17 May 2017), Higher mass transit use linked with lower obesity rates (Charmaine Lamabao, NewsLine, 18 May 2017), Mass transit use correlates with obesity rates (Todd Gleason, Illinois Public Media News, WILL-AM 580, 19 May 2017), Green Bay students get a free ride | Our view, (Green Bay Press-Gazette, 20 May 2017), Community investment in transit can lower obesity rates, (Missouri Public Transit Association, 26 May 2017).

Obesity’s hefty price tag (Beth Baker, Politico) quotes fuel consumption attributed to obesity, as reported in Jacobson and King (2009). Reported 8 March 2017

Why you should factor driving into your weight loss plan. A Minute Withä U. of I. data expert Sheldon H. Jacobson.  Reported 8 January 2016.

Sheldon H. Jacobson’s research on obesity and its impact on fuel economy was quoted in the article “Obesity Is Hurting the U.S. Economy in Surprising Ways” in Bloomberg Business, and “Walking’s worth the (lack of) weight,” in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Reported 4,8 March 2015.

Obesity Is Hurting the U.S. Economy in Surprising Ways. Bloomberg Business. Reported 5 March 2015.

Seatbelt laws encourage obese drivers to buckle up,” based on the paper “Seatbelt usage: Is there an association with obesity?” which appeared in Public Health.  Coverage included ABC Radio (plus many of its affiliate stations) and WCIA-TV 3 in Champaign, IL.  Reported 2-8 September 2014.

Curbing Car Travel Could Help To Decrease BMI: Study. Huffington Post. Reported 27 December 2012.  See also ABC-2 WBAY, ABC-7 WLS, ABC-7 WZVN, ABC13 WTVG, NBC-32 WMBF, CBS-8 KFMB, WKBW-DT 7, FOX5 WNYW, FOX5 WTTG, FOX10 KSAZ, Business Day Live, US News and World Report, Consumer Affairs, The Star Ledger, EmpowHer, Smithsonian, Post and Courier, HealthDay News.

Is Obesity a Heavy Drag on Fuel Economy? NBC News. Reported 16 October 2012 (reported by Live Science)

The news article "Automobiles can increase obesity, study says,” appeared in the Deseret News (Salt Lake City, Utah).  Reported 8 May 2012.

As America's waistline expands, costs soar. Reuters News. Reported 30 April 2012.  Over 120 national media outlet picked up the story, including MSNBC, CNBC, Fox News, Huffington Post, Forbes, Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, Sun Sentinel, Toronto Sun, Edmonton Sun, Winnipeg Sun, Ottawa Sun, Calgary Sun, several public and commercial radio stations, and others.

Obesity Now Costs Americans More in HealthCare Spending Than Smoking. Forbes. Reported 20 April 2012.

(University of Illinois) A Minute with Sheldon H. Jacobson, expert on statistics related to travel, discusses how the recent leveling off of obesity rates may be associated with the leveling off of how much Americans are driving.  Reported 19 January 2012.

Is our auto-centric lifestyle making us obese? Motor Trend. Reported 11 August 2011.

Can a treadmill help save you at the pump? NBC News. Reported 1 November 2006.

For a world of woes, we blame cookie monsters. New York Times.  Reported 28 October 2006.

To Spend Less On Gas, Lose The Spare Tire. Washington Post. Reported 26 October 2006.

Americans' obesity adds to gasoline consumption, study says. USA Today. Reported 25 October 2006 (reported by Associated Press)

Our appetite for food boosts consumption -- of gasoline. LA Times. Reported 25 October 2006.

Film review of Documentary, Killer At Large: Why Obesity is America’s Greatest Threat, which included comments on this research by Sheldon H. Jacobson.

Students Involved

Laura Albert McLay (Industrial Engineering Graduate Student, University of Illinois)

Douglas King (Industrial Engineering Graduate Student, University of Illinois)

Rong Yuan (Industrial Engineering Graduate Student, University of Illinois)

Banafsheh Behzad (Industrial Engineering Graduate Student, University of Illinois)

Timothy Sanchirico (Computer Science Undergraduate Student, University of Illinois)

Zhaowei She (Mathematics Graduate Student, University of Illinois)




Last updated: 1 February 2019

URL address: BTRI


Contact Information: Sheldon H. Jacobson, 217-244-7275, email, twitter