Cost of obesity epidemic double Australia's health budget

SYDNEY (AFP) - An obesity epidemic affecting almost 16 percent of Australians cost the country a staggering 21 billion dollars (15.8 billion US dollars) last year, double what it spends on health, new figures show.

About 3.24 million Australians are obese, according to analysis by Access Economics released at a forum at Parliament House in Canberra, attended by more than 130 Australian and international experts on health and food.

That figure should force every Australian to look at their lifestyle, said government senator Guy Barnett, who hosted the forum.

"What the figures show is that it should make all of us review our lifestyle choices, and it also shows that these costs are getting bigger, not smaller," Barnett told Channel Nine television.

"We've got a tsunami coming towards Australia in terms of a health crisis, and it's going to swamp us if we stay the same course."

The number of people affected is likely to double to 7.2 million -- almost a third of the population -- within 20 years, according to the Diabetes Australia report, which measures the impact of obesity on productivity and quality of life.

Adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater are considered obese, although that measure -- body weight divided by height -- underestimates the condition among some ethnic groups, especially Asians.

The direct and indirect costs of obesity, including type two diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis and cancer, totalled 21 billion dollars, the report said.

Of that figure, what the report terms "the burden of disease" -- which includes disability and premature death -- accounted for 17.2 billion dollars.

Loss of productivity cost 1.7 billion, health spending came in at 873 million dollars and another 804 million dollars was incurred through carer costs, the report said.

Cardiovascular disease drained the most funds, costing 12.6 billion dollars, followed by cancers at 3.9 billion dollars and diabetes at 2.3 billion dollars.

Lost tax revenue, welfare and other government payments incurred by obesity sufferers was estimated at 358 million dollars.

The report also found that obesity has caused more than 100,000 Australians to suffer type two diabetes. Almost 380,000 suffered cardiovascular disease and 225,000 suffered osteoarthritis also because they were too fat.


Would be interesting to get such numbers for US..