Economic and Health Impact of Obesity

Economic and Health Impact of Obesity

Obesity-Related Illnesses and Death

Morbid obesity adversely effects normal body functions and can result in serious illness. Not only can life span be shorted but the quality of life is often compromised as well.

Among the health risks associated with morbid obesity is heart disease. People who are severely obese are 6 times as likely as normal-weight individuals to develop heart disease. They are 40 times more likely than normal-weight people to have a sudden death. An increased burden on the heart can lead to early development of heart failure.

Obese people have high blood pressure much more often than normal-weight people. High blood pressure can promote heart disease and lead to stroke, kidney damage, and hardening of the arteries. Cholesterol levels are often elevated among the severely obese as well.

Obese people are 40 times more likely than normal-weight people to develop type II diabetes. Elevated blood sugar leads to damage to tissues throughout the body, and diabetes is the fourth most prevalent cause of death in the United States. Diabetes can cause adult-onset blindness, kidney failure, and is the cause for over half of all amputations.

High Cost of Care for the Morbidly Obese

A study published in the 2005 International Journal of Obesity found that health care costs in 2000 were twice as much for morbidly obese adults than normal-weight adults. Costs resulted from greater number of office visits, outpatient care, in-patient care, and prescription drugs. Total expenditures related with excess body weight exceeded eleven billion dollars in the year 2000.

The Obese Treated Poorly by Health Practitioners

In addition (and unfortunately), the morbidly obese are often viewed harshly by medical professionals. Half of the women who visited doctors because of excess weight issues reported that they felt they had been treated poorly. Both doctors and nurses verify this contention, having reported that they often believe the morbidly obese are lazy, unsuccessful, and non-compliant. Almost one-quarter of nurses stated they were “repulsed” by morbidly obese patients, and doctors and nurses both stated that they viewed and treated the morbidly obese differently.

Poor Emotional Health of Morbidly Obese Persons

Many people who are overweight are the targets for criticism and ridicule by peers. These harsh behaviors can propagate depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

A 1991 study showed that obese people believe they are physically unattractive, dislike being seen in public, think other people are making harsh comments about their weight, and feel discriminated against in the workplace.

Another study focused on the stigma of obesity found:

• Being obese carries a social stigma. Nearly all of the participants, 72 of 76, reported they had experienced humiliation and discrimination related to their weight.

• Being obese affects personal identity. Nearly half of the study participants report poor mental and emotional health, including depression, related to their weight.

• Obese persons feel misunderstood by health care providers. More than 25% of the participants report they have gone to great (and unhealthy) lengths to lose weight. They feel they are being judged and victimized for a condition that is out of their control.

As obesity rates soar worldwide reaching near epidemic proportions, so too is discrimination and bias against obese people. It is projected that overweight and obese people will likely total 80% of the adult population by 2020 and more than 1 in 5 children will be obese. The impact of our growing girth as a nation has social, economic, and health consequences that are alarming.




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