Estimating the Cost of Sedentary Lifestyles

It is known that leading an inactive life, one lacking in physical exercise, has a fairly large negative effect on health and life expectancy. In a similar way to past studies that assessed the overall cost of obesity across populations, researchers here investigate one methodology by which it is possible to estimate the global cost of sedentary lifestyles:

A study has revealed that in 2013, physical inactivity cost $67.5 billion globally in healthcare expenditure and lost productivity, revealing the enormous economic burden of an increasingly sedentary world. Based on data from 142 countries, representing 93.2 per cent of the world's population, this study provides the first-ever global estimate of the financial cost of physical inactivity by examining the direct health-care cost, productivity losses, and disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) for five major non-communicable diseases attributable to inactivity: coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and colon cancer.

"Physical inactivity is recognised as a global pandemic that not only leads to diseases and early deaths, but imposes a major burden to the economy. Based on our data, physical inactivity costs the global economy $67.5 billion in 2013, with Australia footing a bill of more than AUD $805 million. At a global and individual country level these figures are likely to be an underestimate of the real cost, because of the conservative methodologies used by the team and lack of data in many countries. Increasing physical activity levels in communities is an important investment that governments should consider which could lead to savings in healthcare costs and more productivity in the labour market."

The $67.5bn in total costs, including $53.8bn in direct cost (healthcare expenditure) and 13.7bn in indirect costs (productivity losses), breaks down as follows. $31.2bn for total loss in tax revenue through public healthcare expenditure; $12.9bn as the total amount in private sector pays for physical inactivity-related diseases (e.g. health insurance companies); $9.7bn as the total amount households paid out-of-pocket for physical inactivity-related diseases. Type 2 diabetes was the costliest disease, accounting for $37.6bn (70 percent) of direct costs.


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