The Economic Cost of Obesity

Americans have the highest obesity rate in the world

(Image from: The World’s Top 10 Fattest Countries)

We have written about the effects of obesity on the economy a number of times. Here are the latest statistics:

(From the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) -- an international economic group comprised of 34 member nations:  Health Costs: How the U.S. Compares With Other Countries, Jason Kane, PBS NewsHour, 10/22/2012)

First Lady Michelle Obama has spoken repeartedly about Obesity as one of the most challenging health crises the country has ever faced:

  • Two-thirds of adults and nearly one-third of children and teens are currently obese or overweight, putting them at increased risk for more than 20 major diseases, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
  • Obesity-related medical costs and a less productive workforce are hampering America’s ability to compete in the global economy.
  • Obesity-related medical costs total $147 billion a year, accounting for nearly 10 percent of all annual medical spending. Obese people spend 42 percent more on health care costs than healthy-weight individuals.
  • Obesity-related job absenteeism costs the country around $4.3 billion annually; as a person’s body mass index increases, so do the number of sick days, medical claims, and health care costs.

Below are yet another report and video, submitted by Jack Collins, a contributor to AcademicEarth:

65% of the world’s population lives in a country where you’re more likely to die for being obese than you are for being underweight.1

Because this includes all high-income and middle-income countries, it’s easy to dismiss obesity as a disease of luxury. But if this were true only the super wealthy would be overweight. Why is it then that people with less than a high school degree have the highest obesity rate (32.9%) or that “rates of severe obesity were approximately 1.7 times higher among poor children and adolescents?”2, 3

Obesity is a class issue. “We know that the lower your income, the more likely you are to inhabit an obesogenic environment.”4

We live in a country where junk food is subsidized. According to “In 2011, over $1.28 billion in taxpayer subsidies went to junk food ingredients, bringing the total to  $18.2 billion since 1995.” To put that figure in perspective, $18.2 billion is enough to buy over – 116 Krispy Kreme doughnuts for every single American taxpayer.

“In contrast, only $637 million has gone to subsidies for apples since 1995. That’s enough to buy just half of one apple per taxpayer.”

The average American consumes slightly under 2,700 calories per day.5 A 25% increase since the 1970s. And is it any wonder why? The cheapest food is the fattest food and it’s also the least filling. As long as this trend continues, our poor will suffer and the US will continue to have the highest obesity rate in the world.6

1 ”10 Facts on Obesity.“ World Health Organization, Mar. 2013. Web. 13 May 2013.

2 Krishnamsetty, Meena. “15 Shocking Obesity Facts You Didn’t Know About.” Insider Monkey. InsiderMonkey, LLC, 5 Dec. 2010. Web. 13 May 2013.

3 ”Relationship Between Poverty and Overweight or Obesity.” Food Research and Action Center, n.d. Web. 13 May 2013.

4 Swinburn, B, G Egger, and F Raza. “Dissecting Obesogenic Environments: the Development and Application of a Framework for Identifying and Prioritizing Environmental Interventions for Obesity.“ Preventive Medicine. 29.6 (1999): 563-70. Print. Web. 13 May 2013.

5 Kulas, Michelle. “How Many Calories Does the Average American Eat?, 14 June 2014. Web. 13 May 2013.

6 Krishnamsetty

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