Economic impact of overweight and obesity to surpass $4 trillion by 2035
Global study predicts that more than half the global population will be living with overweight and obesity within 12 years if prevention, treatment and support do not improve.
- The World Obesity Atlas 2023, published by World Obesity Federation, predicts that the global economic impact of overweight and obesity will reach $4.32 trillion annually by 2035 if prevention and treatment measures do not improve. At almost 3% of global GDP, this is comparable with the impact of COVID-19 in 2020.
- The majority of the global population (51%, or over 4 billion people) will be living with either overweight or obesity by 2035 if current trends prevail. 1 in 4 people (nearly 2 billion) will have obesity.
- Childhood obesity could more than double by 2035 (from 2020 levels). Rates are predicted to double among boys to 208 million (100% increase) and more than double among girls to 175 million (125% increase) and are rising more rapidly among children than adults.
- Lower income countries are facing rapid increases in obesity prevalence. Of the 10 countries with the greatest expected increases in obesity globally (for both adults and children), 9 of those are from low or lower-middle income countries. All are from either Asia or Africa.
- World Obesity Federation calls for comprehensive national action plans to help countries act on new World Health Organization (WHO) Recommendations for the Prevention and Management of Obesity. The Atlas report will be presented at a high-level policy event on 6 March to UN policymakers, member states and civil society.
- Acknowledgement of the economic impact is in no way a reflection of blame on people living with obesity, which is a chronic, relapsing disease.
A new World Obesity Atlas report from the World Obesity Federation, published on World Obesity Day, predicts that 51% of the global population will be living with overweight or obesity by 2035 based on current trends.
Continued failure to improve prevention and treatment could contribute to a total economic impact of US$4.32 trillion by 2035 – nearly 3% of global GDP. These new figures represent a significant increase on current levels and lend urgency to World Obesity Federation’s calls for the development of national obesity action plans around the world.
Rising rates and rising costs
Compiled by the World Obesity Federation, the World Obesity Atlas 2023 presents a series of obesity prevalence projections for the period 2020 to 2035. Worryingly, over half of the global population is expected to have a high body mass index (BMI ≥25kg/m²) by the end of this period, and 1 in 4 people will be living with obesity (BMI ≥30kg/m²) compared to 1 in 7 today.
Childhood obesity is rising particularly fast. Rates are expected to double among boys by 2035 to 208 million, and to increase by 125% among girls to 175 million. In all, over 1.5 billion adults and nearly 400 million children will be living with obesity in 12 years time unless significant action is taken.ATLAS 2023
In addition, the report provides eye-opening new insights into the economic impacts of overweight and obesity, which are predicted to reduce the global economy by over US$4 trillion a year by 2035. At nearly 3% of global GDP, this is on a par with the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Every single region will see an increase in economic impact by 2035, with the Americas (North, Central and South America) shouldering the highest costs as a proportion of GDP (3.7%) and the Western Pacific region the highest total costs (US$1.56 trillion).
The report emphasises the importance of developing comprehensive national action plans to prevent and treat obesity and support people affected by the disease. It also acknowledges the impact of climate change, COVID-19 restrictions, new pandemics, and chemical pollutants on overweight and obesity and warns that without ambitious and coordinated action to address systemic issues, obesity rates could rise still further.
Prof. Louise Baur, President of the World Obesity Federation, said: “This year's Atlas is a clear warning that by failing to address obesity today, we risk serious repercussions in the future. It is particularly worrying to see obesity rates rising fastest among children and adolescents. Governments and policymakers around the world need to do all they can to avoid passing health, social, and economic costs on to the younger generation. That means looking urgently at the systems and root factors that contribute to obesity, and actively involving young people in the solutions. If we act together now, we have the opportunity to help billions of people in the future.”
Countries unprepared to deal with obesity
Obesity is often seen as an issue for high income countries, where rates are generally higher. However, the report reveals that obesity levels are rising fastest in low and lower-middle income countries, which are often the least able to respond to obesity and its consequences.
The report includes Obesity-NCD Preparedness Rankings for 183 countries. First introduced in the 2022 Atlas, this ranking system takes account of countries’ current health system responses to NCDs and their commitment to the implementation of obesity prevention policies.
The report shows marked variations in preparedness across national income levels and geographical regions. For example, the average preparedness ranking for low income countries is just 154/183 compared to 29/183 for high income countries. All 10 of the most prepared countries are in Europe, while 8 of the 10 least prepared countries are in the African region.
By 2035, the economic impact of overweight and obesity is estimated to be over $370 billion a year in low and lower-middle income countries alone.
Rachel Jackson-Leach, Director of Science at World Obesity Federation, said: "If we do not act now, we are on course to see significant increases in obesity prevalence over the next decade. The greatest increases will be seen in low and lower-middle income countries, where scarce resources and lack of preparedness will create a perfect storm that will negatively impact people living with obesity the most."
Urgent call for national action plans at high-level policy event
The launch of the Atlas report will be marked with a high-level policy event: ‘Changing perspectives and advancing national action’ on Monday 6 March 2023, 13:00 CET (12:00 GMT). During the event, World Obesity Federation and partners will lead calls for a robust international response.
The Atlas report discusses the importance of national action plans and Universal Health Coverage to help countries implement new WHO Recommendations for the Prevention and Management of Obesity that were adopted in 2022.
Johanna Ralston, CEO of the World Obesity Federation, said: “Let's be clear: the economic impact of obesity is not the fault of individuals living with the disease. It is a result of high-level failures to provide the environmental, healthcare, food, and support systems that we all need to live happy, healthy lives. Addressing these issues will be valuable in so many ways, to billions of people. We simply cannot afford to ignore the rising rates of obesity any longer. We hope that the findings of this latest Atlas will convince policymakers and civil society to take action and make tangible commitments to change in their regions.”