Health Medical

Obesity weighs hard on India, China, US

HQ team

September 26, 2022: China, the US, and India are expected to have the highest economic cost of overweight and obesity, a study by the World Obesity Federation and RTI International finds. 

China’s cost is estimated at more than $10 trillion, the US at more than $2.5 trillion and India at about $850 billion.

The study released on September 21 provides the first-ever country-specific global estimate of the economic impacts of the non-communicable disease, mainly due to avoidable healthcare costs of cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease attributable to obesity. 

“Other countries with the economic costs of overweight and obesity projected to exceed $100 billion include Germany, Canada, Australia, Brazil, the United Kingdom and Japan. Of all those countries, it is expected to cost the United Arab Emirates the highest proportion of GDP (11.04%).”

The economic impact of overweight and obesity is estimated to rise from 2.19% to 3.3% of GDP in 161 countries, according to a peer-reviewed paper published in BMJ Global Health.

WHO estimates

The World Obesity Federation earlier estimated that one billion people will be living with obesity by 2030.

According to the WHO, overweight and obesity are defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health. A body mass index (BMI) over 25 is considered overweight, and over 30 is obese. 

The issue has grown to epidemic proportions, with over 4 million people dying each year due to being overweight or obese in 2017. Rates of overweight and obesity continue to grow in adults and children.

Starting from 1975, until 2016, the prevalence of overweight or obese children and adolescents aged 5–19 years increased more than four-fold from 4% to 18% globally, according to the WHO.

Urban settings

Once considered a problem only in high-income countries, overweight and obesity are dramatically rising in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in urban settings.

The vast majority of overweight or obese children live in developing countries, where the rate of increase has been more than 30% higher than that of developed countries.

“These estimates of the economic impact of overweight and obesity should alarm governments worldwide,” said Johanna Ralston, CEO of the World Obesity Federation.

“The persistent stigmatisation of people living with obesity and policies that do not reflect the most recent evidence have led to failing approaches that ignore obesity’s root causes.”

Dr. Rachel Nugent, Vice President for Global Noncommunicable Diseases at RTI International, said: “The take-home lesson from this research is that countries and companies have strong economic incentives to help people and workers be healthy and avoid the high costs of obesity-related diseases.”

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