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Half of the World Will be Obese by 2035. What Does that Mean for Employers?

Half of the World Will be Obese by 2035. What Does that Mean for Employers?

March 3, 2023
In addition to costs associated with chronic diseases due to obesity, productivity rates are lower and absenteeism is higher.

A report released on March 3, 2023, from the World Obesity Federation predicts that the majority of the global population (51%, or over 4 billion people) will be either overweight or obese by 2035 if current trends prevail.

1 in 4 people (nearly 2 billion) will have obesity.

Childhood obesity could more than double by 2035 (from 2020 levels). Rates are predicted to double among boys to 208 million (100% increase) and more than double among girls to 175 million (125% increase) and are rising more rapidly among children than adults.

And the global impact will reach $4.32 trillion annually by 2035 if prevention and treatment measures do not improve.  To provide a comparison the group noted that this figure is almost 3% of the global GDP, which would make it similar to the impact of COVID-19 in 2020.

And this will have a huge impact on employers as obesity has been associated with a number of health concerns including, prediabetes, diabetes, coronary heart disease, depression, hypertension, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, respiratory problems, stroke, gallbladder disease, arthritis, gastroesophageal reflux disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and some types of cancer.

US Economic Cost

The burden of American obesity, and the chronic diseases to which it is a contributing factor, has reached record economic heights, according to a study by the Milken Institute. 

  • In 2016, chronic diseases driven by the risk factor of obesity and overweight accounted for $480.7 billion in direct healthcare costs in the U.S., with an additional $1.24 trillion in indirect costs due to lost economic productivity.
  • The total cost of chronic diseases due to American obesity and overweight was $1.72 trillion—equivalent to 9.3% of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP).
  • Obesity as a risk factor is by far the greatest contributor to the burden of chronic diseases in the U.S., accounting for 47.1% of the total cost of chronic diseases nationwide.

Abseetism, Productivity Loss

In a 2021 article from the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Science, obesity, relative to normal weight, raises job absenteeism due to injury or illness by 3.0 days per year (128%).

The study found that annual productivity loss due to obesity ranges from $271 to $542 (lower/upper bound) per employee with obesity, with national productivity losses ranging from $13.4 to $26.8 billion in 2016. 

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