The toll of Mexico’s obesity epidemic has been measured to have cost the country 2.1 percent of its GDP, a toll that is only expected to increase for the next 40 years.
A study by the World Obesity Federation (WOF) and the Research Triangle Institute (RTI) released yesterday analyzed the financial impact of obesity on eight different countries throughout 2019. The study measured both direct and indirect economic impacts. Direct ways included the generation of higher health coverage costs; indirect ways, which formed 65 percent of cost estimates, include premature death and worker absenteeism.
For Mexico, researchers found that 2019 obesity levels cost the country US$26 billion, making up 2.1 percent of its GDP or US$204 per capita. An estimated 73 percent of 127 million Mexican residents are overweight, compared to only 20 percent in 1996. Of these, 34 percent qualify as morbidly obese. Childhood obesity has doubled since 1996 after rising from 7.5 percent to 15 percent.
These percentages, as well as the financial impact of obesity, are expected to continue increasing. Experts predict obesity-related diseases will subtract 2.4 million full-time workers from the Mexican workforce per year if the rate of obesity growth continues. The health expenses obesity will create will account for 8.9 percent of the total health expenditure for the next 30 years and raise the toll on GDP to 5.3 percent.
Out of the 38 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) members, obesity is expected to impact Mexico’s GDP the most between 2020 and 2050. Economics aside, the rising levels of obesity are also expected to reduce life expectancy in the country by more than 4 years during that time period as obesity level are expected to rise to 88 percent of the population.
While it may have one of the highest obesity levels in the world, Mexico is not the only country seeing the economic impacts of obesity in its GDP. Donna Ryan, President, World Obesity Federation, says not a single country is on track to meeting WHO’s obesity reduction goals.
Further efforts to reduce obesity in the country, such as the already-implemented labeling of food products with an excess calories, could prevent an increased economic loss. A 20 percent reduction of products with high sugar, sodium, calories and saturated fats could prevent 1.4 obesity-related diseases and save the country MX$1.99 billion (US$97.8 million) annually during the next 30 years.
The OECD suggests introducing further taxes on unhealthy food products, subsidizing healthy foods and promoting changes in the food industry. A full version of the WOF and RTI study will be released in 2022 and will include more than 140 countries.