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Opinion

It’s fine being fat

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ING has released a report on the economic and market implications of US obesity. Entitled The fat of the land, the report looks at possible effects on the US economy of the growing numbers of obese people. In 1980, some 15% of Americans were classified as obese, under the (admittedly questionable) BMI method. By 2004, that figure had risen to about 33%.

Interestingly, a higher calorie intake was not among the reasons cited for the expanding waistlines, instead it was attributed to more sedentary lifestyles involving less manual labour, and the influx of labour-saving devices.

The main impact of the growing number of fat people in the US is on population levels, according to ING. The bank expects population to fall by around 11 million by 2050, because of obesity issues, both medical and fertility related. Apparently, that will have a negative impact on GDP of about –0.1% a year, which is worth some $650 billion over the next 50 years.

However, the main theme of the report is that any impact of rising obesity levels will be very small, which is odd considering the expenditure of many governments to stop people getting fatter. In fact, ING points to a possible benefit. If more people die sooner because they’re really fat, it should help alleviate the funding pressures that some pension funds have been experiencing recently.

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