Cookies help us deliver our services. By using our services, you agree to our use of cookies.
Economic consequences of obesity

Economic Consequences of Obesity

In the United States, obesity costs are around $150 billion dollars per year. Nationwide productivity costs are estimated to be between $3.4 billion and $6.5 billion


Obesity is an important topic in the modern world. It has become a real global epidemic that affects people from different countries. Obesity can have many different consequences for our health but it also has a significant impact on other things, for instance, the economy of a country. Obesity has been found to impact at least four aspects of a country's economy: direct medical costs, productivity costs associated with the workplace, transportation costs, and human capital costs (Hammond and Levine, 2012).


First of all, how bad is the problem? Obesity rates have doubled just in the U.S. since the 1970s, and, worldwide, over 500 million people have problems with their weight. The global tendency towards obesity has been on the rise and continues to be on the rise (Hammond and Levine, 2012). On the global scale, obesity has tripled since the 1970s (WHO, 2017). It's worth noting that obesity is usually defined according to the BMI – the body mass index. Obesity is a BMI greater or equal to 30, and overweight is associated with a BMI greater or equal to 25 (CDC, 2017).


''Health issues associated with obesity include cardiovascular issues, diabetes, stroke, mental illness, and many others, which all also require preventive care, diagnosis, and treatment''


According to the CDC (2017), it is possible to divide the costs associated with obesity into direct and indirect ones. Direct costs include preventive, diagnostic, and treatment services. Indirect costs include the morbidity and mortality costs, as well as productivity costs, involving absenteeism and so-called presenteeism, which involves the employees being present at work but having a lower productivity due to the condition. Obesity can contribute to a variety of problems. Health issues associated with obesity include cardiovascular issues, diabetes, stroke, mental illness, and many others, which all also require preventive care, diagnosis, and treatment. Some of these can lead to disability and be lethal.


What are the costs of obesity?


So, what are the estimated obesity costs? In the United States, these are associated with around $150 billion dollars per year. Nationwide productivity costs are estimated to be between $3.4 billion and $6.5 billion (CDC, 2017). This is a global trend. For instance, in Mexico, the costs of obesity were associated with $800 million dollars and were predicted to rise to over $1 billion (Tremmel et al., 2017).


Direct medical costs also are associated with the fact that obese individuals usually have higher medical care costs. The obese have a 36% higher annual health care cost, including prescription costs and pirimary care costs. The same is true for the overweight in comparison with people of a normal weight. A one-unit increase in the BMI is associated with an almost 2% higher cost in medical spending. In terms of lifetime spending, the overweight and the obese have significantly higher medical costs. Overweight people have 20%, while the obese have a 50% higher rate of medical costs (Hammond and Levine, 2012).


Looking at this data, it becomes clear that obesity is associated with significant direct and indirect costs. This is a problem that occurs on a global scale and is especially significant in the U.S. with its high obesity rates.