The rising prevalence of obesity around the globe places an increasing burden on the health of populations, on healthcare systems and on overall economies.
A major challenge for researchers is to quantify the effect of these burdens to inform public policies.
Using a simulation model to project the probable health and economic consequences from rising obesity rates in the United States and the United Kingdom, researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and Oxford University forecast 65 million more obese adults in the U. S. and 11 million more in the U.K. by 2030, leading to millions of additional cases of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. The findings suggest that medical costs associated with treatment of these preventable diseases in the U.S. alone will increase by $48-66 billion per year.
The paper, “Health and Economic Burden of Projected Obesity Trends in the U.S. and UK,” is part of a series of articles on obesity published in the August 27 issue of Lancet. The research was led by Y. Claire Wang, MD, ScD, Mailman School assistant professor of Health Policy and Management, with colleagues from Oxford University, Harvard University, and the UK National Heart Forum.
To construct historic trends in BMI the researchers analyzed data from two nationally representative surveys: the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 1988 to 2008, and the Healthy Survey for England (HSE) from 1993 to 2008. The U.S. and U.K. have the highest obesity rates among the countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Projecting from these data sets: the researchers predicted the following impacts for the U.S. by 2030:
Obesity prevalence among men would rise from 32% in 2008 to approximately 50% and from 35% to between 45% and 52% among women.
7.8 million extra cases of diabetes
6.8 million more cases of coronary heart disease and stroke
539,000 additional cases of cancer
Annual spending on obesity-related diseases would rise by 13-16%, leading to 2.6% increase in national health spending.
Total medical costs associated with treatment of these preventable diseases are estimated to increase by $48-66 billion/year.
For the U.K., researchers predicted the following developments by 2030:
Prevalence of obesity among men would increase from 26% to between 41—48%, and among women from 26% to 35-43%.
668 000 more cases of diabetes
461,000 more cases of heart disease and stroke
139,000 additional cases of cancer.
In the U.K., annual spending on obesity-related health would increase even more rapidly than in the U.S. due to its older population, rising 25%.
Source: Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health