The cost of obesity examined

Researchers from The University of Auckland have announced the results of a recent study showing that overweight and obesity in New Zealand costs the country between NZ$722 million and NZ$849 million a year in health care costs and lost productivity.

"These figures represent a major drain on health resources and point to a need to increase efforts on prevention," says Professor Boyd Swinburn from the School of at The University of Auckland.

He believes that timely action will bring cost-effective results and notes that Australia as part of its national push to increase productivity has invested $870 million in programs to reduce obesity in workers, children and communities."

In New Zealand an estimated 35 percent of the population aged over 15 are overweight, while 25.4 percent are obese. Obesity has been well established as a key risk factor for major such as cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

Higher rates amongst Maori and Pacific people meant that these accounted for 29 percent of the total costs when they make up only 21.5 percent of the New Zealand population.

Health care costs, amounted to $624 million, or 4.4 percent of New Zealand's . Costs of lost productivity, through absenteeism, premature death, or recruitment and training of replacement staff, was estimated to be between $98m and $225m, depending upon the methodology used.

"These figures demonstrate a substantial loss of productivity," says Professor Toni Ashton from The University of Auckland, "even without taking account of the costs which were not included - such as foregone taxes, costs of disability, and loss of well-being and quality of life."

Professor Swinburn says that "a recent benchmarking exercise for action on preventing obesity between New Zealand and Australia found that both countries performed poorly on policies such as reducing junk to children, simple front-of-pack traffic light labelling on processed foods and giving the food industry too much influence in developing public policies around food.

"However, Australia clearly outperformed New Zealand by investing in community, school and workplace programmes and by not having GST on fruit and vegetables. "

The study, which was based upon 2006 figures, was done in collaboration with Deakin University in Australia and University of Nebraska Medical Center in the United States and has been published in this month's issue of the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.

A previous study based on figures from 1991 estimated the of obesity alone in New Zealand at NZ$135 million.

"However, this older estimate needed revision, using new and updated evidence," says Professor Ashton. "The prevalence of obesity has increased by more than ten percent since the last published estimate, and additional diseases have been identified as being attributable to obesity."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Obesity and depression independently increase health costs

Oct 31, 2011

Obesity and depression both dramatically increase health care costs, but they mainly act separately, according to a study published in the November 2011 Journal of General Internal Medicine by Group Health Research Instit ...

Recommended for you

When you lose weight, where does the fat go?

Dec 16, 2014

Despite a worldwide obsession with diets and fitness regimes, many health professionals cannot correctly answer the question of where body fat goes when people lose weight, a UNSW Australia study shows.

Shed post-Christmas pounds just by breathing

Dec 16, 2014

Ever wondered where the fat goes when somebody loses weight? Most of it is breathed out as carbon dioxide, making the lungs the primary excretory organ for weight loss, explain Australian researchers in the ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.