The Cost of Obesity is More Than Dollars and Cents–The Economics of Obesity

Everything that we do in life comes at a cost.

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Want a car or a house? On top of the price tag, one must also purchase insurance and be prepared to pay for regular maintenance costs for both purchases.

Drop your phone in the ocean on your last trip to the beach? Bummer. And expensive.

When we think of the cost of a certain item or action, we tend to think in terms of dollars and cents.

There are other costs that we pay on a regular basis. There are emotional costs, stress costs, happiness costs, health costs, and many other that we pay in one form or another for almost every action we take or choice that we make.

While not many people “choose” to be obese, for those that are battling obesity the costs are exponential. There are more costs to being obese than could ever be addressed in a single blog post, but I’ve looked at three of the costliest aspects of being obese in today’s world.

Financial

There is a definite economic cost for individuals that are living with obesity.

Perhaps the most obvious cost of being obese are the medical costs associated with being obese. Obese individuals have a much higher likelihood of dealing with other diseases (diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, etc.) and the treatment of these diseases can be very expensive. Even for obese individuals that have good health insurance, the co-pays and prescriptions can add up fast if you’re dealing with one or more of the diseases associated with obesity. Also, people that are carrying around excess body weight put more wear and tear on their bodies, and therefore are more likely to use OTC medicines like anti-inflammatories and pain relievers.

A less obvious financial impact of obesity may sound ridiculous at first, but did you know obese individuals earn less money than their average weight counterparts? And if you’re a female and you’re obese, you are really getting shortchanged. A recent study in the International Journal of Obesity found that many aspects of the hiring process and salary structure were negatively impacted if the individual in question was obese. You would think that in the 21st century we wouldn’t have to deal with weight discrimination in the workplace, yet only 1 state (Michigan) currently has laws against such action. And if there aren’t laws on the book preventing it, you can be it is happening.

There are also a variety of ways that obesity nickels and dimes you to death. There can be increased costs of commuting, as a heavier driver over time may cause uneven wear on his or her tires. A heavier person will get slightly worse gas mileage than a normal weight person, which can add up over time. While these costs are obviously minimal, if everything else is equal it does add a slight cost to being obese.

All in all, for obese individuals there is a definite fiscal advantage to working on improving their health and losing some weight.

Emotional

Another cost of being obese is dealing with the emotions of the person.

A person that is obese can become depressed about their weight or their lack of physical activity. If you focus on the negatives of their disease, it is pretty difficult to maintain a positive outlook. And as the battle with depression wages, it is easy to become less motivated to exercise, and it gets harder to make healthy food choices. This downward spiral can take on a life of its own, and become very difficult to break on one’s own.

Another emotional cost of obesity that many battle is a poor self-esteem level or embarrassment concerning their physical appearance. I’ve heard some folks say that they don’t want to work out because they are so big they don’t think that they can do very much. Or they are embarrassed for people to see them struggling with an “easy exercise”.

On one hand, these are nothing but excuses. But on the other hand, these are very real emotional issues that obese people have to face. And if they are so self-conscious that they are afraid/embarrassed to begin exercising, it can be very difficult for them to build the confidence necessary to take a major step toward better health.

Family Life

Obesity can affect a family’s dynamics in a variety of ways. And the costs can be severe.

For young couples where one or both partners are obese, starting a family can be a very arduous process. Many of the causes of infertility are greatly influenced by a person’s weight, and those that are obese have a harder time overcoming them and becoming pregnant. If the infertility lingers on for many months and years, it can place an incredible strain on the married couple. Every month becomes a roller coaster of hopefulness and crushing disappointment, followed by a renewed hope that maybe this next month will be successful. Marital relations also suffer, as sex has to be scheduled around the most fertile days of the month, instead of it being able to happen spontaneously. And while losing weight isn’t a guarantee to avoiding infertility, it helps. And it can help save a marriage.

For parents of small children, keeping up with them can be difficult to say the least. And if you’re carrying around 50+ extra pounds of body fat, it can be nearly impossible. Tag, catch, hide and seek, and a number of other activities are traditional games that kids play with their parents, if the parents are able. For parents that aren’t physically able to keep up with their kids during these few years that a child still WANTS to play with his or her parents, losing those opportunities is an incredible potential price of being obese.

The family price for obese parents is steep, but for grandparents it can be highway robbery. As the average age of having a baby continues to creep higher, that means grandparents are also older before their grandchildren are born. Obese grandparents have a harder time keeping up than obese parents do, and the effects of dealing with obesity related illnesses can dramatically shorten an elderly person’s life. Every grandparent I know takes great pride in watching their grandkids grow and mature, but for those dealing with obesity there is a much smaller chance they will ever see their grandkids graduate high school, college, and/or start a family.

If you’re dealing with being obese, I know that something in this post resonates with you. I know you are dealing with one or more of the costs listed here, as well as many that aren’t addressed.

And I also know that you don’t have to deal with these costs forever.

The process of losing weight and increasing your activity level is long and difficult, but the payoff is worth it.

If you’re ready to take control of your health, start now. If you don’t know where to start, please ask. If I can’t help you, I know lots of people that can. You just have to decide you’re ready.

Start now. You’re worth it.

Before the cost of waiting gets any higher.

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12 Comments

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12 responses to “The Cost of Obesity is More Than Dollars and Cents–The Economics of Obesity

  1. This is really an excellent and convincing post. It has the ability to motivate people to take actions to fight against obesity.

  2. Pingback: The Cost of Failed Resolutions–A Look at the Economics of Exercise | DK FitSolutions

  3. Excellent article. I completely take your point about about the often horrendous consequences of obesity as well as the sense of shame and diminishing self-esteem that obesity engenders. My Observation is that obesity is not an entirely self-inflicted condition.

    Obese people are often seen as willfully contributing to their own conditions, but what many critics rarely take into account is the highly addictive nature of many junk foods and processed foods.

    And it has been shown that these foods do not merely create psychological dependency but real physical addiction. Food companies and fast food chains cynically exploit the addictive properties of their ingredients in order to effectively enslave their customers.

    I commend your commitment to physical fitness, which can be an important component of weight loss, but, with respect, it should be stressed that the indispensable element of weight loss is a shift in attitude toward diet.

    Crash diets contribute as much to weight gain as junk food does. What people badly need is sound information and guidance as to what constitutes proper diet. And the deck is stacked against them because, at the moment, neither the government nor the media are helping. Do you agree?

    • Totally agree. You can exercise all you want, but if your eating habits are poor you’re in trouble.

    • I agree with that Dane. The huge push by media, government and food producers for low fat, low fat, low fat fools the majority of the people into thinking that if it says 98% fat free then it is healthy. It only takes a moment to glance over the nutritionable and list of ingredients to find that that the product is instead loaded with carbs, either as processed sugars or wheat, salt and a whole lot of additives that are almost unpronouncable!!!
      But it is not just what is IN these processed foods that is a problem, it is also the methods used to extract the bits of the natural foods that they want to use to make these ‘foods’. I always imagined good old fashioned mechanical methods (naive I know right?) until I read an article (admittedly 20 years old) describing that to make margarine the required components are extracted by forcing chemicals through the raw product, in order to maximize the quantity gained, and then these chemicals have to be removed so as to be within safe levels. (Yes, to safe levels, not removed entirely) I was astounded….I never even imagined poisons being used in this way……in our FOOD!! WTH!!! Safe to say, I have never looked at a food label the same way since…..in fact, I think if it needs a nutrition table, and list of ingredients then I probably shouldn’t bother buying it. This still leaves me wondering though, how any and every food that is not presented in its absolute original state is processed. One of these is olive oil. How do I know that the oil isn’t extracted the same way as for margarine oils?

      It seems that the best and only way to know what you’re getting is to grow it yourself and make everything from scratch.

      Oooops….that turned into a bit of a rant…..I do feel much better now though. 🙂

      • Rants are always welcome!

        The process of packaging/processing foods is scary, and the more you learn the scarier it gets. Sticking to foods that don’t come with an ingredient list is absolutely the best bet, as difficult as that seems to be for so many people these days. Thanks for adding to the conversation!

  4. Great post. Obesity is really a problem for the world it seems, and the problem does not seem to be getting solved. Our world revolves around eating carbs which may only be helping the producers of such foods!

  5. Pingback: Live From Clinton Health Matters Conference

  6. Pingback: Back to the Economics | DK FitSolutions

  7. Pingback: What is Your Motivation? | DK FitSolutions

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