Kazakhstan: BMI and PCI


Yesterday, Dr. Hans Rosling sent a message on Twitter that he is scheduled to speak this coming Thursday at the Astana Economic Forum in Kazakhstan. He sent the tweet:

Kazakhstan´s 23 year loop in Health&Wealth! By 2003 on same GDP/capita & lifespan as they had 1980, but now on track!

And included a link to the following graph from his Gapminder website:

(click image to enlarge)

You can see the ‘loop’ Dr. Rosling was talking about in the graph. It also shows how Kazakhstan improved in income per person during much of the 1960s, but slowly crept downward during much of the 1970s and 1980s. By the early 1990s, the per-capita income (PCI) was in freefall, bottoming out around 1995 (I have added the red text marking 1995 and 2010).

Since then, however, Kazakhstan’s PCI has been growing strongly, recovering its lost ground by 2003 and rising to unprecedent levels since then.

Back in February, I made a comment at the end of a blog post about estimating financial well-being and gender equality from body mass index values to “Pay attention to Kazakhstan. They’ve been fattening up quickly since the year 2000.”

I didn’t include a graph for Kazakhstan in that post, so I’ve made one here:

(click image to enlarge)

Health officials often talk about body mass index (BMI) as if it is a health risk. I suppose that very high values are. But it seems to me that BMI can also be a pretty good gauge of the economic health of a nation, too.

For Kazakh men, we can see a steady decline in the rate of year-over-year BMI growth throughout the 1980s, bottoming out in 1995, and then rising rapidly since then. The story is slightly different for women, but not by much qualitatively. That is, in general, as men lost BMI there, so did women, and as men gained, so did women. In my opinion, that’s a very positive sign from a rapidly improving nation.


If you’re intrigued by my idea of using change in body mass index as a gauge of financial well-being, please read my post ‘Looking Up Everywhere.’


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