Obesity is said to have researched epidemic proportions. According to the World Health Organization, "Globally, there are more than 1 billion overweight adults, at least 300 million of them obese." In the United States, 27.6 percent of adults are obese (as self-reported to the Centers for Disease Control in 2009).
In a new report, the Brookings Institution attempts to calculate the direct and indirect costs of obesity to the U.S. economy. The authors analyze the economic impact in terms of four major categories: "direct medical costs, productivity costs, transportation costs, and human capital costs." Direct costs relate to the elevated risk of serious medical conditions, such as hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, arthritis, etc. Productivity costs refer to employment problems such as absentism or presenteeism, shortened work life, increased disability claims, etc. Transportation costs point to to bigger vehicles, increased fuel consumption, etc. due to elevated body weight. Human capital costs consider the measurable negative impact on educational attainment and quality of schooling of obesity.
The bottom line for Brookings? Taken all together these factors point to an economic impact of more than $215 billion a year.