The Effects of Obesity on the Economy

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The increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity observed in Ireland in recent decades poses significant threats to the health and wellbeing of the population and represents a major challenge for health services. Body mass index (BMI), defined as weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in metres is a widely used indicator of overweight and obesity in adults. Adults are generally classified into the following groups: underweight (BMI less than 18.5), normal weight (BMI 18.5 to less than 25), overweight (BMI 25 to less than 30), obese (BMI 30 and over) .

Excess body weight is associated with a significant burden of chronic disease, with negative effects on overall life expectancy, disability-free life expectancy, quality of life, health care costs and productivity. The prevalence of overweight and obesity worldwide has increased markedly over the past three decades. It is estimated that in 2008 a total of 1.46 billion adults worldwide were overweight, of whom 502 million were obese. In Ireland, based on the findings from the 2008-10 National Adult Nutrition Survey (NANS), the estimated prevalence of overweight in adults is 37%, with a further 24% meeting current body mass index (BMI) criteria for obesity. In analyses of the data from earlier surveys conducted in Ireland using similar methods, the prevalence of obesity in 18-64 year old adults has increased significantly between 1990 and 2011, from 8% to 26% in men, and from 13% to 21% in women, with the greatest increase observed in men aged 51-64 years.

While childhood overweight and obesity are not directly relevant to the current costing exercise, they are of critical importance to work on future costs. In 2002, the heights and weights of 19,617 school-going children and adolescents aged between 4 and 16 years in Northern Ireland and The Republic of Ireland were measured using standardised and calibrated scales and measures. The participants were a representative cross-sectional...
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