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Obesity costs

As America’s waistline expands, costs soar

Obesity is rising in America, that’s no secret – but what about the rising economic costs of those extra pounds? According to a new study from the Campaign to End Obesity, spending due to obesity is actually twice the amount previously estimated – and exceeds the costs of even smoking, Reuters reports.

US hospitals are ripping out wall-mounted toilets and replacing them with floor models to better support obese patients. The Federal Transit Administration wants buses to be tested for the impact of heavier riders on steering and braking. Cars are burning nearly a billion gallons of gasoline more a year than if passengers weighed what they did in 1960.

The nation’s rising rate of obesity has been well-chronicled. But businesses, governments and individuals are only now coming to grips with the costs of those extra pounds, many of which are even greater than believed only a few years ago: The additional medical spending due to obesity is double previous estimates and exceeds even those of smoking, a new study shows.

Many of those costs have dollar signs in front of them, such as the higher health insurance premiums everyone pays to cover those extra medical costs. Other changes, often cost-neutral, are coming to the built environment in the form of wider seats in public places from sports stadiums to bus stops.

The startling economic costs of obesity, often borne by the non-obese, could become the epidemic’s second-hand smoke. Only when scientists discovered that nonsmokers were developing lung cancer and other diseases from breathing smoke-filled air did policymakers get serious about fighting the habit, in particular by establishing nonsmoking zones. The costs that smoking added to Medicaid also spurred action. Now, as economists put a price tag on sky-high body mass indexes (BMIs), policymakers as well as the private sector are mobilizing to find solutions to the obesity epidemic.

What’s more, those medical costs affect everyone, not just those who are obese. Higher health insurance premiums lead everyone to cover those extra medical costs. The US spends an excess of $190 billion a year, the study found.

Obesity results in physical changes outside of individuals’ waistlines – from wider stadium seats to sturdier, floor-mounted toilets (in comparison to the wall-mounted kind), businesses need to spend more to accommodate widening bodies.

Reuters: Read more on the rising costs of obesity

Campaign to End Obesity: www.obesitycampaign.org

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