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OECD: Tackling obesity would boost economic and social well-being

Obesity-related diseases will claim more than 90 million lives in OECD countries in the next 30 years, with life expectancy reduced by nearly 3 years. Obesity and its related conditions also reduce GDP by 3.3% in OECD countries and exact a heavy toll on personal budgets, amounting to USD 360 per capita per year, according to a new OECD report published in November 2019.

The OECD’s The Heavy Burden of Obesity – The Economics of Prevention [1] says that more than half the population is now overweight in 34 out of 36 OECD countries and almost one in four people is obese.

Average rates of adult obesity in OECD countries have increased from 21% in 2010 to 24% in 2016, meaning an additional 50 million people are now obese.

New OECD analysis in the report finds that investing in initiatives like better labelling of food in shops or regulating the advertising of unhealthy foods to children can generate major savings.

Every dollar invested in preventing obesity would generate an economic return of up to six dollars, according to the report.

Reducing the calorie content in energy-dense food such as crisps and confectionery by 20% could avoid more than 1 million cases of chronic disease per year, particularly heart disease.

The report also suggests initiatives targeting the whole population with mass media campaigns could lead to gains of between 51,000 to 115,000 life years per year up to 2050 in the 36 countries included in the analysis. This would be equivalent to preventing all road deaths in EU28 and OECD countries respectively.

The full report is downloadable here [1].