Almost a decade after their first publication on obesity (2010), OECD is back with new study results – and they do not paint a pretty picture. In 2010 about one in five people in OECD countries were obese, the current report ‘Heavy Burden of Obesity: The Economics of Prevention’ shows this has now risen to nearly one in four, not only decreasing the overall health of Europeans, but also affecting their economies.
In the vast majority of OECD member countries, more than half of the population is overweight. There has also been a significant growth in morbid obesity. As a result, life expectancy in these countries is reduced by 2.7 years on average, by result of associated chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. European countries that are most affected by this are Croatia (3.5), Latvia (3.6), Hungary (3.7) and Poland (3.9).
Higher health budgets
As people who are overweight require healthcare services more often – and complications are more frequent – health expenditure has risen by 209 USD per capita across the OECD countries. 8.4% of the health budget of these countries will be spent to treat the consequences of obesity over the next thirty years.
Another field of impact is employment and the work force. People with chronic disease are more likely to be unemployed and miss days of work. When at work, they may also be less productive than their healthy counterparts. The impact can be quantified as equivalent to a reduction in the workforce of 54 million people per year across the 52 countries analysed, which include EU28 and G20 countries. The macro-level effect is that overweight reduces GDP by 3.3% on average in the EU28 member states.
Physical activity as a tool
OECD’s report also shows recommendations on how to improve these numbers, one of three options being: “A package to promote physical activity, through prescribing physical activity, public transport interventions, physical education in schools and actions to counteract workplace sedentary behaviour.” OECD says that this package alone will save 17 USD billion in health cost by 2050, will see the labour market increase by 82.000 workers per year and will make for an increase of GDP of 0.027% on average across countries. The report concludes that for each 1 US dollar invested in tackling overweight, up to 5.6 USD will be returned in economic benefits.