A negative externality is the external cost resulting from a particular action. Negative externalities from eating unhealthy foods are not easily quantified, as a number of complex and interwoven factors come into play. While eating unhealthy food has many negative effects on the body, consuming junk food has a large impact on society and the environment.
According to the Center for Disease Control, unhealthy eating leads to a number of serious health conditions and many individuals are forced to seek medical care and treatment. Preventable diseases like type II diabetes and heart disease are largely affected by one's diet. Time, money and energy spent treating patients with health conditions that are exacerbated by their poor diets affects the efficiency, availability and cost of medical care.
Medical News Today argues that the illnesses resulting from obesity due to poor dieting often force people to take days off from work, stop working, or go on disability. Decreased productivity negatively affects the economy and the standard of living. When individuals use sick time and do not go to work, the level of productivity of the workforce decreases and business revenue decreases.
According to the Center for Disease Control, unhealthy eating is linked a vast array of life threatening conditions including certain types of cancer, stroke and high blood pressure. Premature death increases the nation's mortality rate and decreases the overall level of health of the population. The cost of premature death in hospital care, as well as the emotional and psychological toll of the loss of the individual have monumental and lasting effects.
A number of potential solutions may ameliorate negative externalities caused by unhealthy eating. ABC News suggests that taxing unhealthy foods may deter individuals from purchasing them. Junk food traditionally costs less than most foods, which is one of the reasons it is more readily consumed therefore as prices goes up, demand will decrease. According to the New York Times, making healthy, organic foods more affordable may also encourage individuals to incorporate healthy foods that were once considered too expensive into their diet.
- Auburn University: Externality: A Glossary of Political Economy Terms
- Stanford Hospitals and Clinics: Health Effects of Obesity
- Center for Disease Control: Obesity
- Center for Disease Control: Overweight and Obesity: Economic Consequences
- Medical News Today: Obesity Linked To Reduced Productivity At Work
- ABC News: Junk Food Tax Could Improve Health