The Next Big Economic Threat: Our Waistlines?

The Next Big Economic Threat: Our Waistlines?

Step on the scale at the doctor’s office and a host of disconcerting thoughts may pop into your head.That number is a lot higher than I thought it would be. Ugh, I know she’s going to tell me to start exercising.

One thought you’re almost definitely not having at that moment? Gosh, I’m really taking a toll on the international economy!


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There may seem to be little connection between global economic output and how you look in a bathing suit. But the government is just as concerned about your belly rolls as you are—and for good reason.

A new report finds the obesity epidemic costs the world economy a whopping $2 trillion annually, or 2.8% of global gross domestic product, nearly as much as the cost of war and terrorism.

In fact, the research, conducted by consulting firm McKinsey, discovered that obesity is now a greater threat to the global economy than alcoholism, and is almost as detrimental as smoking. The $2 trillion figure is mainly a reflection of higher health care costs combined with losses in productivity as a result of disability and premature death.

About 30% of the world’s population is overweight or obese and, unfortunately, the problem is only likely to worsen in the coming years. McKinsey researchers predict that, by 2030, almost half of the world’s adult population could fall into this category.

While there’s no simple solution to this issue, the report presents a number of potential strategies, such as redesigning cities to encourage walking and cycling; tweaking food labels so consumers have a better idea of what they’re scarfing down; and educating parents about the health risks of obesity. The estimated savings of these and other changes are huge: In the United Kingdom, for example, implementing these initiatives could save $1.2 billion annually.

If these stats aren’t enough to encourage you to control your weight, get this: According to other research, those who are physically fit also tend to be more financially healthy (and vice versa). We’ll see you at the gym!


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