The UK is in the grip of an “obesity emergency” that threatens to bankrupt the NHS and cut lives short, a report warns.
According to experts, more than eight in ten Britons will be overweight or obese by 2060 – costing the economy £142 billion a year, the Daily Mail informs.
Published in the BMJ Global Health, the study provides the first-ever country-specific global estimate of the economic impacts of overweight and obesity.
For the study, researchers from the World Obesity Federation and RTI International analyzed data from 161 countries.
An earlier report published in The Telegraph (November 2021) informs that the economic impact calculations, consider both direct costs such as healthcare expenditure, as well as indirect costs, including early death and absence from work.
Based on the data that was analyzed, experts have estimated that the proportion of adults in the UK who are overweight or obese will escalate from 60.7% in 2019 to 84.8% by 2060.
In the meantime, the cost of the nation’s bulging waistlines will almost increase three times, from £52.9billion to £142.5billion – equal to 2.1% and 2.4% of national income, the Daily Mail notes.
The study’s findings suggest that China will have the world’s largest obesity bill at more than £8.8trillion dollars a year – this would be followed by the US at over £2.2trillion, meanwhile, India would be nearly at £747.8billion.
The UK is expected to rank 12th highest.
The calculations account for the cost of treating more patients for diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and Type 2 diabetes, which are all linked to obesity, as well as an increase in sick days, lost productivity at work, and premature mortality.
Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum, is reported to have said, “The figures identified in this report are eye-watering and appalling. Obesity is already putting huge pressure on the NHS. I would be really concerned if I was a future prime minister as there is a risk the rising cost of obesity could bankrupt the NHS.”
He adds, “The British government has done nothing serious to stem obesity. The result is that we are in the grip of an obesity emergency.”
The Government’s obesity strategy with a view to potentially abandoning restrictions on junk food advertising, buy-one-get-one-free deals, and the sugary drinks levy is currently being reviewed by the Department of Health.
Stigmatization of obesity is a key factor in the lack of action taken so far to tackle the issue, states a previous report (November 2021) in The Telegraph.
The blame is reportedly put on the individual rather than on societal, biological, and environmental drivers behind the rising rates of obesity – from genetics to urbanization, as well as the aggressive marketing of inexpensive but unhealthy food options.
Johanna Ralston, chief executive of the World Obesity Federation describes it as a “lethal combination” of factors.
According to the previous report in The Telegraph, she states that increasing obesity rates should be seen as a pandemic and tackled accordingly.
“We very much think it is a pandemic,” she said. “Everybody is now living in an obesogenic world.”
She is also quoted as saying, “Obesity is very much not the fault of the individual. There are limited options people have in terms of the kinds of food they can eat and access, and there are genetic factors too.
“Plus, a mother who is at a heavier weight during pregnancy is going to predispose that child towards obesity.
“What used to be – and still is in some societies – seen as a sign of success is actually having an insidious effect on the population.”
The fact that obese people have been at high risk during the pandemic should have opened the eyes of policymakers to the pitfalls of inaction, Ralston said.
However, she adds that going forward, there are lots of options to prevent the worst-case scenario – including fully implementing existing policies and equipping health systems to understand, prevent and treat the condition.