Nearly two thirds of Americans are considered overweight or obese. Obesity numbers have risen from 15 percent of our population to 31 percent in only 20 years. This means that 93 million Americans are obese. Even more alarming is the fact that 17% or over 9 million US children over the age of 6 are considered to be overweight. What effect does this have on our society? This article will examine the devastating effects on our health, skyrocketing employer and insurance costs, and even the effects on our national security.
Most of us aren’t aware that obesity causes more medical problems than heavy smoking or alcohol consumption. Carrying all that extra weight is like adding 20 of age and can lead to major health problems including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, heart disease, stroke, and increased risk of breast, colon, and prostate cancer. It may also lead to neurological disorders, asthma, and risky pregnancies. In addition, obese individuals are resorting to more drastic measures with elective surgeries like stomach bands or gastric bypass, which carry their own risks of infection, hemorrhage, and hernias. Right now the CDC says 300,000 annual deaths are attributed to obesity but the number could be much higher.
The cost to our nation’s employers is astounding. Medical insurance costs are 3 times higher than they were in 1990 and 27 percent of this increase is due to obesity. Obese patients have 77 percent higher medication expenses and 36 percent higher inpatient and outpatient treatment costs. And it’s not just health insurance costs that are affecting employers. Obesity resulted in 39 million missed work days and disability payments due to obesity average $8,720 per case per year. The total cost of obesity in 2000 in America was $117 million and you can imagine how much that figure has grown in the 10 years since 2000.
Some military leaders are now saying that obesity is affecting our national security too. Many applicants to all four branches of the services aged 17 to 24, in fact 27%, are rejected because of obesity. This is the leading reason young people aren’t allowed to serve, more than rejections due to not completing high school or having a criminal record. These facts not only reduce our ability to defend ourselves overseas, but have an impact on our ability to defend ourselves against domestic terrorism and our to recover from natural disasters. Retired generals and admirals are asking Congress for $1 million in new funding to improve our school nutrition to help reverse the trend of childhood obesity that is having such a tremendous impact on our national security.
Solving our national epidemic of obesity will not be easy but we can no longer afford to ignore the scary facts. The devastating effect on our health and rising costs to our society compel us to change our lifestyle. If we don’t, the effects on our families, economy, and national security will be devastating and will threaten to jeopardize our fundamental way of life.