One in two people is too fat: the economy suffers from obesity

More often sick leave

On average, overweight people take six more days off sick each year than normal-weight people, and obese people take 13 more days than normal-weight people. Losses for companies due to sick leave amount to 1,421 euros due to being overweight and 3,079 euros due to obesity per person per year.

Being overweight and obese also translates into earlier retirement and a greater need for care in old age, as it increases the risk of metabolic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and diseases of the musculoskeletal system. The risk of liver disease and tumors also increases, with the chances of recovery being worse for very overweight people than for people of normal weight.

According to Biach, between 800 and 1,400 euros of additional costs per person per year could be reduced in the active population if obesity were avoided through exercise and diet. Pension payments through disability pensions total €4 million or €17,220 per person, which are based on being overweight and its consequences. Last but not least, obesity has a costly effect on care, with $2.9bn in total care costs and $1bn of that for care subsidy, “the budget burden being particularly overweight.” It was highlighted that 5,885 euros in assistance costs per person per year could be avoided through preventive behaviour.

Eating healthy is not enough

Calls for healthy nutrition, especially Mediterranean food, which has been recommended for years, as well as exercise and sports, are not always effective, said nutritionist Kurt Widhalm. “Obesity is a disease whose treatment is not very successful. The concepts of prevention are more important, especially in childhood and adolescence”.

28% of children between the ages of five and nine are already overweight, and 26% of young people between the ages of ten and 19 are overweight, putting Austria above the EU average of 24%. Covid-19 has not improved this: according to a current study, children gained an average of 1.8 kilograms more during the first year of the pandemic than the year before.

In her practice, Widhalm regularly sees children suffering from high blood pressure and diabetes at a young age because they already weigh 300 pounds or more by the age of 14. Widhalm: “Often, only an operation helps. If a child is so overweight, he can get cartilage damage and bone marrow edema; sport is often not possible at all.”

In Austria, however, there is a lack of structured programs for prevention, which are particularly successful at the age of six to ten years, according to Widhalm. However, one euro invested in preventive measures would generate an economic return of six euros. This requires more incentive systems, for example linked to economic benefits such as the mother-child pass or tax relief.

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