Obesity and Health

Being obese or overweight can increase the risk of developing a range of serious diseases. The risks rise with BMI, and so are greater for obese individuals. The 2004 Wanless report ‘Securing Good Health for the Whole Population’ likened obesity to smoking in terms of associated disease burden as a determinant of future health.

A recent comprehensive review of 57 international prospective studies found that Body Mass Index (BMI) is a strong predictor of mortality among adults. Overall, moderate obesity (BMI 30-35 kg/m2) was found to reduce life expectancy by an average of three years, while morbid obesity (BMI 40-50 kg/ kg/m2) reduces life expectancy by 8-10 years. This 8-10 year loss of life is equivalent to the effects of lifelong smoking.

Obesity reduces life expectancy by an average of three years, or eight to ten years in the case of severe obesity (BMI over 40). Around 8% of annual deaths in Europe (at least one in 13) have been attributed to overweight and obesity. The cost to the UK economy of overweight and obesity was estimated at £15.8 billion per year in 2007, including £4.2 billion in costs to the NHS.