More than two in three American adults and one in three children are considered obese, defined as having a body mass index of 30 or greater. Since the early 1960s, cases of obesity have more than doubled from 13 percent to 35 percent of adults ages 20 to 74. Obesity has negative implications for personal health, the economy, health care, business and children.
Health and Wellness
Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo of the University of California, San Francisco predicts that by the year 2020, almost half of American women and nearly 40 percent of men will be obese. As a result, incidence of heart disease will increase 16 percent and deaths that occur as a result of obesity-induced heart disease will increase by 19 percent.
People whose BMI indicates that they are obese or even overweight have increased risks of serious health problems, such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, gout, respiratory problems, apnea, complicated pregnancies, eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression. Their dependence on health insurance and health care will increase, placing corresponding stress on the health care delivery system.
Health Care Costs
According to Dr. Ross A. Hammond of Brookings University, obese populations will see almost 40 percent higher health care costs annually and 105 percent higher prescription costs. Medicare and Medicaid cover a combined 20 percent of obesity-related costs and private insurers cover the majority of the remainder. As obese populations and children age, this number is expected to rise significantly, much as was demonstrated by the $70-billion increase in obesity-related health care expenses from 1998 to 2008.
According to TIME.org reporter Tiffany Sharples, 9 million children were overweight at the time of publication. As they age, they have an increased risk for heart disease. There is a correlation between childhood BMI and future heart disease and increased rates of heart-related deaths. KidsHealth also reports that obese children are at greater risk of developing eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia, are prone to depression and substance abuse. Obesity in children is linked to the development of serious health conditions such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, shortness of breath and asthma, sleep problems, earlier sexual and physical maturation, liver disease and gallbladder disease.
Direct health care costs, transportation and human capital costs are being linked directly to the obesity epidemic. In the future, high rates of American obesity will continue to be the cause of substantial costs. According to Dr. Hammond, as of 2011 obesity cost the nation around $215 billion annually and the amount was expected to rise.
Business and Productivity
Obesity also impacts productivity. Worker absences due to obesity-related illness, lowered productivity while present at work, earlier mortality, lower quality of life, disability benefits and welfare all affect the economy and business. Businesses will be faced with increasing numbers of obese workers as overweight children mature and as the overall population continues putting on pounds, impacting business through a significant decrease in productivity.
- “Time”; Lifelong Effects of Childhood Obesity; Tiffany Sharples; December 2007
- Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy; The Economic Impact of Obesity in the United States; Ross A. Hammond, September 14, 2010
- KidsHealth: Overweight and Obesity
- National Institutes of Health: Overweight and Obesity Statistics