Percentages Escalating

Recently, while sorting through my files, I came across a special issue of Time magazine from June 7, 2004:

Time Cover

The issue is a fascinating read as well as a measure of how far we have or have not come regarding obesity in America.

The lead article states: “There’s no doubt that the obesity epidemic is real and our collective health is getting worse.” Also, included in this piece is the statement: “But the following pages will make it clear that there is plenty of hope.”

From a 2016 perspective, one can ask how much hope?

Some of the obesity statistics from this Time issue:

  •  Fully 2/3 of U.S. adults are officially overweight.
  •  About 1/3 of the above can be classified as full-blown obesity.
  •  In kids 6-19, 1 in 6 (15%) are overweight, and an additional 15% are heading that way  (notice no mention is made of obesity in this age bracket).
  • The total medical cost for obesity-related disease is $117 billion/year.

Roughly six years later, information from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2009-10 states:

  • More than 2 in 3 adults (68.8%) are considered to be overweight.
  • More than 1 in 3 adults (35.7%) are considered to be obese.
  • 1/3 of children and adolescents 6-19 are overweight or obese.
  • 1 in 6 of children and adolescents 6-19 are considered to be obese.

As the above 2009-10 figures point out, the number of overweight and obese American adults and children reflects an increase from the Time statistics.

More recently, figures from a 2014 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study state: 36% of adults and 17% of children are obese.

Bringing additional focus on the above information, obesitycampaign.org states: “If the rate stays constant by 2030, 51% of Americans will be obese.” While, according to the Trust for American Health: “20 years ago, no state had an obesity rate above 15%—today 41 states have an obesity rate over 25%.”

Interestingly, the figures for the yearly total medical costs vary widely. Some of the calculations I came across are:

  • In 2005, the Harvard School for Public Health estimated the cost to be $190 billion.
  • In 2008, the total cost was $147 billion (a $30 billion increase over the Time’s estimate), and an absenteeism from work cost of $6.38 billion.
  • A 2011 Gallop Poll points out obese people miss an estimated 450 million days of work each year compared with healthy [sic] workers—for an estimated cost of $153 billion annually in lost productivity.

The above statistics show we have not made progress curtailing the rates of obesity. If these rates continue to rise, the Trust for American Health’s estimate that 51% of Americans will be obese by 2030 will become as reality as well as Dr. David Katz’s, current President of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, prediction that “today’s kids may be the first generation in history whose life expectancy is projected to be less than that of their parents.”

Sorry for the above bombardment of statistics. Has the promise of “plenty of hope” in the Time article disappeared?

In this post, I’ve concentrated on a general overview of the facts/figures/percentages regarding obesity. In future ones, also based on Time’s special issue on obesity, I’ll narrow my focus.

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