It may be time to trade your stock in companies selling skinny jeans for those providing health care. If recently released projections hold, 32 million more Americans could be obese by 2030, with an added $550 billion in medical expenses.
While the rise in obesity has slowed, the new report predicts that over the next 18 years, the obesity rate will reach 42 percent—from the 2010 level of 36 percent—with 11 percent of U.S. adults severely obese. Severe obesity is calculated as a body mass index greater than 40, or more than 100 pounds overweight.
Obesity increases the risk of many diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea and cancer. The risk is even higher for severe obesity.
Severely obese people “have a much shorter life expectancy and generate greater lifetime medical costs, suggesting that future health care costs may continue to increase even if obesity prevalence levels off,” the authors write in the study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Previous reports put the increase in obesity at 50 percent. Researchers used additional data to produce what they thought was a more accurate estimate. In addition to standard population factors—such as gender, age, and recent trends—they looked at the prices of healthy and fast food, access to the Internet, and annual household income.
Researchers stress that these are projections based upon current data, but the health and economic costs of obesity will continue to increase without “significant intervention.”
The tide of obesity could be slowed, the authors suggest, with new drugs and technologies, as well as more recreational facilities, health promotion at work and better urban design.