Obesity-related diseases will claim more than 90 million lives in OECD countries in the next 30 years, with life expectancy reduced by nearly three years, according to a new study.
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), more than half the population is now overweight in 34 out of 36 OECD countries and almost one in four people is obese.
The study, called ‘The Heavy Burden of Obesity – The Economics of Prevention’, reveals that average rates of adult obesity in OECD countries have increased from 21% in 2010 to 24% in 2016, meaning an additional 50 million people are now obese.
New OECD analysis in the report finds that investing in initiatives like better labelling of food in shops or regulating the advertising of unhealthy foods to children can generate major savings.
According to the organisation, every dollar invested in preventing obesity would generate an economic return of up to six dollars.
Meanwhile, reducing by 20% the calorie content in energy-dense food, such as crisps and confectionery, could avoid more than 1 million cases of chronic disease per year, particularly heart disease.
“There is an urgent economic and social case to scale up investments to tackle obesity and promote healthy lifestyles,” said OECD secretary-general Angel Gurría.
“These findings clearly illustrate the need for better social, health and education policies that lead to better lives. By investing in prevention, policymakers can halt the rise in obesity for future generations, and benefit economies. There is no more excuse for inaction.”
OECD countries already spend 8.4% of their total health budget on treating obesity-related diseases. This is equivalent to about $311 billion or $209 per capita per year. Obesity is responsible for 70% of all treatment costs for diabetes, 23% for cardiovascular diseases and 9% for cancers.
According to the report, individuals with at least one chronic disease associated with being overweight are 8% less likely to be employed the following year. When they have a job, they are up to 3.4% more likely to be absent or less productive.
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