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The cost of obesity

Obesity takes a high toll on the health of people and governments alike. Estimates indicate that the lifespan of the obese — people with body mass indexes (BMI) above 30 — is two to 10 years shorter than that of slimmer individuals. The problem does not end there. In addition to stealing years from people’s lives, obesity consumes a hefty portion of government resources allocated to healthcare. In 2011, the public healthcare system in Brazil spent $269.6 million on doctor visits, surgeries, and other procedures to treat obesity and its associated problems. This corresponds to 1.86% of the Ministry of Health budget for outpatient and inpatient care (PLOS One, April 1, 2015). Michele Lessa, Leonor Santos, and Everton Nunes da Silva, from the University of Brasília (UnB), calculated the cost of obesity based on a survey that weighed and measured 188,400 Brazilians over the age of 20, in addition to data provided by the ministry’s healthcare information system. Cases of morbid obesity (BMI higher than 40) represented only 0.8% of the total, but were also the costliest.  These patients accounted for $64.2 million of such spending.