A couple of generally useful large reference studies on body weight, level of exercise, and resulting life expectancy and lifetime medical costs have shown up in recent years. As I'm sure you all know by now, the data all points in the direction of more fat and less exercise correlating with a shorter, less healthy life and higher lifetime medical costs. Take a look at these items, for example:
- Exercise, Longevity, and Long Term Medical Costs
- More Health, Longevity, and Medical Cost Data from the Ohsaki Cohort Study
- Another Look at the Economics of Inactivity
I recently noticed another, similar study on the Israeli population:
Health care costs per person were calculated by body mass index (BMI) by applying Israeli cost data to aggregated results from international studies. These were applied to BMI changes from eight intervention programmes in order to calculate reductions in direct treatment costs. Indirect cost savings were also estimated as were additional costs due to increased longevity of program participants. Data on costs and Quality-Adjusted Life Years (QALYs) gained from Israeli and International dietary interventions were combined to provide cost-utility estimates of an intervention program to reduce obesity in Israel.
On average, persons who were overweight (25 ≤ BMI < 30)had health care costs that were 12.2% above the average health care costs of persons with normal or sub-normal weight to height ratios (BMI < 25). This differential in costs rose to 31.4% and 73.0% for obese and severely obese persons, respectively.
I imagine that the popularity of this sort of work of late, or at least the increased willingness of funding bodies to make the necessary grants, has to do with a greater awareness of the impending financial collapse in medical entitlements and centralized health systems. This sad end is somewhat inevitable whenever a system is set up such that patients do not bear costs directly and funds are drawn from taxed resources - there will be overspending, waste, spiraling prices, special interests and all the other ugly aspects of business as usual in politics.
The "solution" offered up by the talking heads is, as usual, more control over everything: rationing, expensive attempts to influence lifestyle choices, and so forth. A far better option, and one unlikely to be tried until these systems have decayed into the sort of wasteland commonly associated with the ruins left at the end of the Soviet era, is simply to let people buy and sell medical services unmolested, unregulated, and in open competition. But that offers those in power few opportunities to advance their own position and line their own pockets, so as you can imagine it doesn't have many advocates where it matters. But ultimately the money runs out and the promises cannot be kept; if something cannot be paid for then it will not be paid for, regardless of how pretty the lies and promises might be.
So two lessons here: firstly, don't get fat and don't stay fat. Secondly, don't expect anyone to be paying your way in later life, regardless of what government employees might have to say on the matter.