The deadly new economic crisis, obesity

The deadly new economic crisis

I was having dinner last night with my cousin, who is the author of this amazing new book called Glow. The book was just released and is being called the next The Help. But, that’s not the point of my story. We were discussing how difficult it is to stay thin. And how it’s high time for the powers-that-be to stop making it so easy to be overweight.

Obesity should be treated the same way we treat cigarette smoking, alcohol, recreational drugs, and texting while driving. These behaviors are already heavily regulated because of the risks they pose. But the fact is, obesity kills far more people than any of these things.

Obesity is a real crisis. Just to give you the statistics once again…

  • The percentage of Americans who are obese (with a BMI of 30 or higher) has tripled since 1960.
  • The incidence of extreme or “morbid” obesity (BMI above 40) has risen six fold.
  • The percentage of overweight Americans (BMI of 25 to 29.9) has basically held steady. It was 32% in 1961 and 34% in 2008. But what seems to have happened is that for every healthy-weight person who “graduated” into overweight, an overweight person graduated into obesity.

That’s just plain crazy!

And as I mentioned on Friday, it doesn’t just affect people physically. It affects us ALL–socially and economically. In a big way.

Now businesses and governments are feeling the pinch too. Obese people are absent from work more often than healthy weight people. The most obese men take 5.9 more sick days a year; the most obese women, 9.4 days more. And, it cuts into productivity as well, which costs the U.S. economy roughly $36 billion a year.

Here are a few more examples of the direct impact overweight America is having on businesses (it’s shocking!)…

  • U.S. hospitals are ripping out wall-mounted toilets and replacing them with floor models to better support obese patients.
  • The Federal Transit Administration wants buses to be tested for the impact of heavier riders on steering and braking.
  • Cars are burning nearly a billion gallons of gasoline more a year than if passengers weighed what they did in 1960.

It’s maddening to me that we have to build larger seats in stadiums, bus stops, and the subway. All because people can’t control themselves. Not to mention the higher health insurance premiums everyone pays to cover those extra medical costs.

These startling economic costs of obesity, shouldered by those of us who aren’t overweight, will hopefully become the epidemic’s second-hand smoke. The driving force that sparks real change in the way we treat this runaway train. You see, it wasn’t until  scientists discovered that non-smokers were getting lung cancer and other diseases from breathing smoke-filled air that policymakers finally got serious about fighting the habit.

Besides, the costs of obesity actually exceed those of smoking!

In a paper published in March, scientists at the Mayo Clinic found that smoking added about 20% a year to medical costs. Obesity added a similar amount. But morbid obesity–which is becoming frighteningly common–increased those costs by 50% a year.

Although smokers incur larger costs during their lifetimes, they tend to die younger. So their overall effect on society is diminished. (They use less social security, private pensions, and Medicare for instance.) But that’s not the case with obese individuals.

Beta blockers, diabetes drugs, and other treatments are keeping the obese alive longer. Which means their astronomically high medical expenses keep going and going–well into old age.

And again, folks, I am not preaching weight-loss for vanity purposes. You already know that it’s a full-blown deadly health epidemic. But, as you can see, it’s also a direct contributor to our current economic crisis. Here are a few more numbers to consider…

Obese men rack up an additional $1,152 a year in medical spending, especially for hospitalizations and prescription drugs. Obese women account for an extra $3,613 a year. Among the uninsured, the figures are even worse. Annual medical spending for an obese person was $3,271 compared with $512 for the non-obese.

Nationally, that comes to $190 billion a year in additional medical spending. That’s 20.6% of U.S. health care expenditures.  As a direct result of obesity. We could change the entire health care system of our nation if we only stopped eating too much of the wrong foods.

I know I am full of statistics today but if none of the others hit home, then this one surely will…It’s not just the national economy taking a hit because of obesity. If you’re among this expanding population (pun intended), it’s literally costing you your own hard-earned money.

Numerous studies have shown that obese people are less likely to be hired and promoted. Obese women in particular earn about 11% less than healthy weight women. If you consider that the average weekly U.S. wage is $669, that’s essentially a $76-per-week “obesity tax.”

I don’t know about you, but I pay enough taxes without adding this one to the mix. So please, please do yourself, your health, and your finances a favor. If you’re struggling with your weight, make the switch to my New Hamptons Health Miracle. Not tomorrow. Not later today. Right now.

It’s your very best chance for making a real change. One that can save your life–and make the world a better place in the process.


“Obesity adds $190 billion in health costs,”, 4/30/12