One recent economic study valued the true environmental impacts of the cheeseburger at $4 billion annually. That's just one food item. So the true costs associated with the environmental and public health outcomes of the American diet are pretty hard to fathom. A recent study from the Brookings Institute aimed to quantify one aspect of these costs by running lifelong health cost projections on hypothetical groups of young adults—one control group and one obese. The study aimed to answer these questions:
How can the cost of obesity be quantified, beyond the direct medical costs incurred by the obese population? How many dollars are lost because of reduced productivity, taxes forgone and increased Social Security Disability Insurance benefits attributable to obesity? How much do these costs accrue over the course of a lifetime?”
The findings? A cost of $93,235 for an individual. In a synopsis of the report, Nathaniel Madden of the Washington Times explains how Brookings extrapolated this information out to our nation
If all 12.7 million children with obesity remain overweight as adults, the total societal costs — in health bills, absenteeism at the office and lower productivity — will total $1.1 trillion over the course of their working lives, equivalent to 6.6 percent of the current U.S. GDP, according to new research released this week.”
One-point-one trillion dollars! That’s a remarkable amount of money being spent that in many cases could be prevented. These costs are a lot higher than previous studies that have done the same thing. Madden explains that this is because the Brookings study took into the account the costs of low productivity or absences in the workplace due to health problems associated with obesity. Check out a panel discussion on the research and look at the slide presentation for more information.
Obesity weighing down U.S. economy, study finds via Washington Times
An In-Depth Look at the Lifetime Economic Cost of Obesity- Slideshow via The Brookings Institute
An in-depth look at the lifetime economic costs of obesity - Video via The Brookings Institute