Science and Tech


Obesity in 2035 could be just as costly as COVID in 2020

The global cost of obesity is expected to be in the trillions of dollars as obesity rates in the U.S. and worldwide skyrocket.
Overweight person grabbing stomach.
Posted at 3:36 PM, Mar 03, 2023

The global economic impact of obesity in 2035 is expected to be comparable to that of COVID-19 in 2020, according to a new report by the World Obesity Federation. 

According to its data, half of the world’s population will either be considered overweight or obese by 2035. Even more concerning, childhood obesity rates are on track to double between 2020 and 2035. 

The economic impact of obesity is expected to reach $4.32 trillion annually by 2035, the World Obesity Federation said in its yearly atlas release this week.

“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,” said Louise Baur, president of the World Obesity Federation.

Beth Czerwony, a registered dietitian with the Cleveland Clinic, said convenience is a big factor in rising obesity rates. 

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“For the kiddos — they aren't able to eat at home or they just certainly don't want to,” she said. "Or perhaps they're working at a fast food restaurant, and it's just easier for them to eat there. So there's a lot of contributing factors to that disease of obesity… When when we have somebody who has a higher BMI, you're more likely, again, to have issues with type two diabetes, heart disease, we know that having obese obesity and having increased fat stores causes more inflammation. So that has been directly correlated with some cancers, as well.”

In the U.S., obesity rates have gradually increased year after year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 33% of American adults were considered obese in 2021. That’s up from 27% in 2011. The CDC also noted jumps in adolescent and childhood obesity in the U.S. from 2011-19. 

While obesity has long been a problem in the U.S., it is a growing problem throughout the world, especially in modernizing nations. 

"If we do not act now, we are on course to see significant increases in obesity prevalence over the next decade,” said Rachel Jackson Leach, director of science at the World Obesity Federation. “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."

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