Economic cost of obesity set to reach 3.3 per cent of global GDP by 2060: Study

The prevalence of overweight and obesity is expected to cost the global economy 3.3 percent of GDP by 2060, according to a new study by the World Obesity Federation and RTI International. The peer-reviewed study, published today in BMJ Global Health, analyzes the current economic impact of overweight and obesity in 161 countries. It provides the first-ever country-by-country global estimate of the economic impact of noncommunicable disease (NCD), primarily due to avoidable health care costs of cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease attributable to obesity.

The study found that $2.2 trillion could be saved if the number of people living with obesity stayed at 2019 levels. A 5 percent reduction in projected NCD prevalence between 2020 and 2060 would result in average annual savings of US$429 billion worldwide.

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China, the United States and India are expected to see the largest increases in the cost of GDP. It is predicted to cost China over $10 trillion, the United States over $2.5 trillion, and India nearly $850 billion (2.47% of GDP). Other countries where the economic costs of overweight and obesity are projected to exceed US$100 billion include Germany, Canada, Australia, Brazil, the United Kingdom and Japan. Of all these countries, it is expected to cost the United Arab Emirates the highest percentage of GDP (11.04 percent).

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It is estimated that obesity currently costs 2.19 percent of global GDP. Estimated economic loss per capita in 2019 ranges from US$6 in low-income countries to US$1,110 in higher-income countries.

Johanna Ralston, CEO of the World Obesity Federation, said: “These estimates of the economic impact of overweight and obesity should alarm governments around the world. Persistent stigma against people living with obesity and policies that do not reflect the latest evidence have led to failed approaches that ignore the root causes of obesity.”

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The study also says that the aggregate cost in high-income countries is likely to increase four-fold, while the increase in low- and middle-income countries is expected to be between 12- and 25-fold. They are projected to more than double in the WHO Europe region, compared with a 26-fold increase in the WHO Western Pacific region.

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Both direct and indirect costs were analyzed in the study. The former includes medical and non-medical expenses, while the latter includes the cost of seeking formal health care, such as B. travel expenses for patients and caregivers. Other indirect costs include economic losses from premature mortality, days lost from work, and reduced productivity while at work.

Medical fees account for almost all (99.8 percent) of direct costs on average across countries. The costs of premature mortality account for a significant proportion (69.1 percent on average) of all indirect costs. Indirect costs have a larger impact on GDP than direct costs (61-88 percent versus 12-39 percent depending on income group).

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The World Obesity Federation estimated earlier this year that one billion people will be living with obesity by 2030. Last year, the organization launched a pilot study on the economic impact of overweight and obesity with RTI International, focusing on eight countries. The World Obesity Federation is calling on world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly to address the root cause of obesity through systemic solutions, rather than focusing on individual responsibility.

“This study has highlighted the need for urgent, concerted and holistic action to counter the global rise in overweight and obesity. We can change that with the right attention from government and the private sector to reduce factors in the environment that can cause noncommunicable disease,” Ralston said.

(With contributions from agencies)

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