There are a lot of them, from medical care to productivity to lower wages.
Economists look at the issue of obesity in America differently than health officials do, although they come up with the same conclusion.
It’s expensive for everyone.
All sorts of statistics are available to indicate that the American population is, on average, too heavy. For instance, the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that 35.7 percent of Americans between the ages of 2 and 74 were clinically obese from 2009 to 2012. The CDC notes that the percent in 1960 was 13.3 percent.
Health officials endlessly alert Americans to the problem, fight their battles over calories, sugars and exercise, and wait for the next set of statistics to tell them the problem is getting solved, or it isn’t.
Economists, however, see obesity as a problem that relates to productivity first and foremost, followed by health care costs, but it can also affect other more remote economic issues as well.
“There are some significant economic costs associated with obesity,’’ said Brookings Institution senior fellow Ross Hammond to Yahoo! Finance. “Unfortunately, it is not an outcome that is rare anymore.”
According to a study to be published later this year in the journal PharmacoEconomics, obesity alone related to $315.8 billion in medical care costs in 2011. Paying for doctor’s appointments, hospital visits, prescription drugs and home health care cost every obese person an average of $3,508 a year.
Untreated obesity leads to diabetes and heart disease, which are both expensive illnesses to treat. When those costs are covered by public health insurance, the public is paying for it, and that means leaner people are paying the price for the treatment of the obese people.
But obesity also costs companies in terms of productivity. Researchers at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut found that obese employees miss an extra 1.1 to 1.7 days of work a year compared to leaner employees, and that costs everyone in the company in terms of production costs.
Obesity also affects productivity at work. The lower productivity is known as presenteeism, and it is estimated to cost employers $500 per obese employee per year. Similarly, employers pay higher medical premiums as a result of medical claims resulting from obesity.
An unfortunate consequence of obesity is that obese employees who interact face-to-face with customers are likely to get paid less than their leaner counterparts. A study from the Vanderbilt University Law School. Since obesity is more frequent in minority and lower-income populations, obesity can exacerbate the problem of income inequality.
There’s more. A study from the University of Illinois says that approximately one billion extra gallons of gasoline are consumed each year transporting obese Americans in cars and planes, which get better mileage with lesser weight. Based on the average cost of gasoline in the spring of 2015, that would amount to $2.5 billion in extra costs.
Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for www.nba.com. He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.
In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.
McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.
McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy Buffett and all things Disney.