Global Obesity Costs Almost As Much As War and Terrorism

obesity costs

Obesity continues to be a major health concern all around the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 78.6 million adults are obese in the United States – that’s over one-third of the population. It’s common knowledge that obesity is a major factor in serious health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and certain forms of cancer. What isn’t common knowledge, however, is the amount of money spent on treating obesity and the conditions it causes. It’s estimated that Americans spent $147 billion on obesity-related medical costs in 2008, and obese people spent around $1,429 more on medical care than individuals of normal weight. Now, a grim new report from McKinsey & Company shows how bad obesity costs are worldwide. According to the report, $2 trillion is being spent globally on obesity each year.

Report Outlines Surprising Statistics

How much is $2 trillion when it comes to the global GDP? Well, in the report’s rankings of the top “social burdens” being generated by human beings, only smoking and “armed violence, war and terrorism” ranked higher. Those categories came in at $2.1 trillion. Fourth in the list was alcoholism, which costs $1.4 trillion around the world each year. The $2 trillion in obesity costs accounts for about 2.8 percent of the global GDP. The report also states that 30 percent of the global population – over 2.1 billion people – is now obese. Surprisingly, that number is 2.5 times higher than the number of both children and adults who are malnourished. Obesity complications also account for around five percent of all deaths each year.

The report also indicates that the outlook for obesity statistics is fairly troubling. As emerging countries become more stable and wealthy, the number of people who have obesity also increases. If current trends persist, the report argues that almost half the adults in the world could be obese by 2030.

What Can Be Done?

An accompanying discussion paper (PDF download here) outlines general strategies that can be taken on a global scale to combat obesity and obesity costs. One of the main findings of the paper is that no one intervention technique will be able to reverse the obesity trend. While that may seem obvious, it’s important to remember that a “portfolio of initiatives” must be undergone simultaneously if results are ever going to be seen. Cooperation will be needed among individuals, governments, retailers, restaurants, media organizations, educators, healthcare providers and employers. The paper suggests education and personal responsibility should be the goal of any obesity-fighting program, as the condition is often very preventable on an individual level. Specifically in the UK, the paper demonstrates how obesity costs and statistics could be lowered by specifically by making high-calorie foods less available and controlling portions.

Obesity Costs: The Bottom Line

Apart from those who work in the healthcare, food, government and education sectors, most people simply won’t be able to do much on their own to curb obesity in their community – much less worldwide. At the same time, however, action can be taken within one’s home and family to ensure that obesity and its related diseases to not take hold. Keeping your family and yourself educated while maintaining proper diet and exercise will go a long way towards preventing obesity costs from piling up.

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