Obesity is Weighing Down the World's Economy

January 5, 2015Global Challengesby EW News Desk Team


The issue of increasing obesity levels throughout the world is gaining weight as an economic issue. Today, approximately one third of the world's population is obese or overweight.  As a result, the plague of obesity is creating an economic drain that rivals issues such as smoking, and even armed conflicts, according to research conducted by McKinsey consultants.

A Bloated World

The strain already placed on healthcare budgets is set to become tighter. Unless quickly and effectively stopping current trends, in fifteen years' time experts suggest that half of the adult population of the world will be overweight.  In a recent report, various consultants estimated the annual cost of obesity to be approximately $2trn, which is equal to 2.8% of global economic output.

Some people in America believe PE (physical education) should be mandatory for all four years of high school.

The basis of the $2trn is a drop in economic productivity seen in recent years, as well as the costs to healthcare systems, and investments required to mitigate obesity impact.  The world economic cost war, terrorism, and armed conflict currently equals about $2.1trn.

The lead author of the report, Richard Dobbs, said that obesity is a critical issue on a global level.  To have any hope of balancing the world economy, the world should employ a comprehensive strategy, as a single intervention will not have enough impact.

The Issue of Obesity

Over the last decade, the issue of obesity has been spreading and developing, from advanced economies such as America, to countries with less wealth.  Today, 2.1 bln people are medically obese or overweight.  This figure is around 2.5 times the number of people considered undernourished. Information from the World Health Organization has suggested that obesity is an epidemic, connected to various non-communicable diseases, such as cancer, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

Heavy body weight is associated with around 2.8 million deaths every year. The World Health Organization has even taken steps by halving its daily sugar intake recommendation from 10% of calories to 5%.  The McKinsey report has assessed seventy-four different measures taken in an effort to fight back against the problem of obesity.  This is why some professionals in America believe high school students, who cannot run a mile at a certain pace, should receive an F in the class.

From this analysis, results for the UK conclude that 25% of the population is obese and 37% is overweight.  According to Public Health England, if obesity levels fell to the rate they were in 1993, the NHS could save £1.2bn every year by 2034.

Obesity is a Major Epidemic

The consensus from experts throughout the world is that fatness is no longer an issue that only affects a part of the population or just the health of the population.  Weight has a direct impact on the economy and is a problem that requires action across various societal and individual levels, including both the public and the private sectors.

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