To accompany World Obesity Day on the 4th March, the World Obesity Federation launched its 2023 Atlas report. This 5th edition focuses on the economic impact of overweight and obesity.
The report recognises continued under-prioritisation of obesity in global agendas, with action remaining “siloed and fragmented”. It also raises concern over the impact of COVID-19 on obesity risk, through increased sedentary behaviour and interruption of monitoring and treatment programmes.
The Atlas 2023 contains economic impact predictions for 2035, in addition to national scorecards of obesity prevalence and preparedness to address increasing obesity and its consequences. The headline message is that overweight and obesity will cost the global economy over $4 trillion potential income by 2035. This reflects 3% of current GDP, which is equivalent to the loss sustained in 2020, the worst year of the COVID pandemic. The economic impact of obesity includes not only direct healthcare costs of treatment, but also its resultant impact as an NCD risk factor, increased premature death risk, absenteeism and decreased workplace productivity.
The report predicts that over 50% of the global population will be overweight or obese by 2035. This is a significant increase on the current prevalence of 38%. Perhaps even more concerningly, the steepest rise is expected among child and adolescent populations. In Europe, obesity is expected to increase by +7% among women and +13% among men between 2020-2035, resulting in 35% female and 39% males being obese. The associated economic impact is predicted to reach $807bn, representing 2.6% of European GDP.
In the run up to the 2nd UN High Level meeting on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in September 2023, this Atlas calls for renewed political commitment to address the social, economic and environmental determinants of health, with multisectoral action essential to address obesogenic environments. The report concludes by stressing that the data presented are predictions and can therefore be altered through meaningful, sustained policy intervention.