Obesity in the UK costs almost £100 billion a year, a new study has suggested, sparking government criticism.
According to the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, the cost of those obesity increased to £98 billion from £58 billion in 2020. This is equivalent to almost 4% of GDP.
This increase compared to the previous analysis reflects three new considerations:
- The costs of being overweight – a body-mass index (BMI) of between 25 and 29.9 – as well as obesity, which is a BMI of 30 or more
- The losses from economic inactivity (as individuals with obesity and overweight are more likely to exit the labour force prematurely)
- Updated cost estimates to account for inflation between 2021 and 2023.
The report – Fit for the Future: A Fair Deal on Food for a Healthier Britain – suggests that of the £98 billion total cost to society, about two thirds (£63 billion) falls on individuals with obesity (through fewer years of healthy life) and their families and friends (through additional informal caring responsibilities).
To compare, about one third of the cost of obesity (£35 billion) falls on the state and wider society through higher NHS treatment costs and lower productivity.
‘Failed to act’
Katherine Jenner, the director of the Obesity Health Alliance, said: ‘The huge increase in costs to £98 billion, which now takes into account the value of health lost through illness and disease, is particularly striking as it has risen during a time the government has had a plan to address obesity – and failed to enact it.’
‘Thirty years ago, half of us were living overweight or with obesity, and now it is two thirds of the population. In those 30 years, our food environment has changed beyond recognition into an obesogenic environment.’
The UK has one of the highest rates of obesity in Europe. Almost three quarters of people aged between 45 and 74 in England are overweight or obese.
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