An alarming new projection was just released on America’s growing obesity crisis and it has many experts worried health care costs will increase even further if nothing is done to bring the epidemic under control.
Obesity levels somewhat leveled off over the last decade with roughly one third of all Americans currently being obese, but this new projection indicates as many as 42% of all Americans may end up obese by 2030. What is worse is 11% could be severely obese, which is more than double the current rate!
“If nothing is done (about obesity), it’s going to hinder efforts for health care cost containment,” says Justin Trogdon, a research economist with RTI International, a non-profit research organization in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park.
As of 2010, about 36% of adults were obese, which is roughly 30 pounds over a healthy weight, and 6% were severely obese, which is 100 or more pounds over a healthy weight.
The world has changed in a way that allows people to be that overweight,” said Eric Finkelstein, lead author of the study and associate professor at the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore. “Sixty or seventy years ago you couldn’t sustain the excess caloric intake needed to be that heavy. This is a group that’s really at risk of health complications and the obesity problem is likely to get much worse without a major public health intervention”.
Researchers estimate that things have gotten about as bad as they can get in the USA, in terms of an environment that promotes obesity. The country “is already saturated” with fast-food restaurants, cheap junk food and electronic technologies that render people sedentary at home and work, he says. “We don’t expect the environment to get much worse than it is now, or at least we hope it doesn’t” said Finkelstein.
Extra weight can indeed take a major toll on health. It increases the risks of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, many types of cancer, sleep apnea and other debilitating and chronic illnesses. This is why obesity is one of the biggest contributors for why healthcare spending has been going up over the past 20 years.
The increase in the obesity rate equates to 32 million more obese people within two decades. That’s on top of the almost 78 million people who were obese as of 2010.
The estimated medical-related costs of obesity may be as high as $147 billion a year, or roughly 9% of medical expenditures. An obese person costs an average of $1,400 more in medical expenses a year than someone who is at a healthy weight.
If the obesity rate were to stay at 2010 levels instead of rising to 42% as predicted, the U.S. could save more than $549.5 billion in weight-related medical expenditures between now and 2030.