Long believed to be a problem exclusive to high-income countries, evidence shows that over 70 percent of the world’s 2 billion overweight and obese individuals live in low- or middle-income countries.
Faced with increasing disability, mortality, health care costs, and lower productivity, obesity is a growing concern for all countries regardless of income level, says a new World Bank report launched here today.
Obesity has a major impact on national economies and on human capital by reducing productivity and life expectancy and increasing disability and health care costs. It is projected that in the next 15 years, the costs of obesity will total more than US$7 trillion in developing countries.
The report Obesity: Health and Economic Consequences of an impending global challenge states that obesity-related diseases are now among the top three killers across the globe, except in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Recent data show that since 1975 obesity has nearly tripled and now accounts for 4 million deaths worldwide every year.
Factors escalating the obesity epidemic include ultra-processed and sugary foods, reduced physical activity, and higher incomes, which often go hand-in-hand with a higher consumption of unhealthy foods.
In addition to directly increased health care costs, there are also indirect costs associated with, for example, reduced work productivity, absenteeism, and early retirement, which affect individuals and societies.
Many countries across the globe are also suffering from what is referred to as the “double burden of malnutrition”—high stunting and increasing obesity rates, further compromising their human capital.
The report also highlights the importance of strong fiscal policies, such as taxation of unhealthy foods; and enhancing urban design, such as playgrounds in schools and walking and bicycle paths.