What Are the Effects of Obesity on the Global Economy?
Obesity is a global epidemic that has both health-related and economic implications (Flegal, Carroll, Kit, & Ogden, 2012). As obesity rates have trended upwards over the past several decades, the costs of treating this condition and its related co-morbidities (e.g., diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease) have risen substantially (Flegal et al., 2012). In the United States, approximately 67 percent of all adults are considered obese, and more than 2 billion individuals worldwide can be classified as obese according to the Body Mass Index scale (BMI, Hammond & Levine, 2010).
Though the causes of these high obesity rates are fairly intuitive, global economic costs are complex and multifaceted. In addition to direct medical costs to both local and global economies, obesity and its co-morbidities can also result in losses in workforce productivity and expenses related to human capital (Hammond & Levine, 2010). A recent report by the McKinsey Global Institute on the direct and in-direct costs of obesity on the global economy indicated that this condition is responsible for more than $2 trillion each year (Dobbs et al., 2014). As the rate of obesity is expected to rise from about 30 to 50 percent by 2030, these costs are likely to continue to increase (Dobbs et al., 2014).
Obesity is also responsible for nearly 5 percent of all deaths worldwide, and its related expenditures are approximately equal to smoking and war (Dobbs et al., 2014). As the causes of obesity generally begin during youth, addressing these substantial costs will require a longitudinal approach aimed at modifying youth lifestyle behaviors like diet and physical activity (Reilly & Kelly, 2010). While interventions aimed at treating obesity and its related causes will also prove to be costly for the global economy, the expected rise in obesity rates and associated expenses certainly justify increased efforts in this area (Reilly & Kelly, 2010).
Dobbs, R., Sawers, C., Thompson, F., Manyika, J., Woetzel, J. R., Child, P., & Spatharou, A. (2014). Overcoming obesity: An initial economic analysis. New York: McKinsey Global Institute.
Flegal, K. M., Carroll, M. D., Kit, B. K., & Ogden, C. L. (2012). Prevalence of obesity and trends in the distribution of body mass index among US adults, 1999-2010. Journal of the American Medical Association, 307(5), 491-497.
Hammond, R. A., & Levine, R. (2010). The economic impact of obesity in the United States. Journal of Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity, 3, 285-295.
Reilly, J. J., & Kelly, J. (2011). Long-term impact of overweight and obesity in childhood and adolescence on morbidity and premature mortality in adulthood: systematic review. International Journal of Obesity, 35(7), 891-898.
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