Monday, April 30, 2012

Some less well known costs of obesity

I've commented many times on obesity over the past couple of years of writing in this blog space.  Here is a link to a Baltimore Sun piece about some less well known costs of obesity.

The key question is just which portion of these costs get captured in most economic evaluations of efforts to reduce obesity.  And, looking at which appears in the text, just how are we defining obesity.  The text of the article uses the term "mild obesity".  In the most recent reading I'd done on the topic, this was referred to as "overweight but not obese".  Yes, it is all a matter of semantics as it is the same BMI range-more than 25 and less than 30.  (I'm lucky enough to be just under 22.5 and still I try to be careful.)  But labeling does make a difference in how people interpret the information.  All the stuff that we used to say about "stick and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me"--probably bogus.  Words matter.  Perceptions matter.  Perceptions affect behaviors and behaviors affect people's weight, health, and their notions of whether they can do much about it.

The costs that I have not seen before are things like the cost of extra airline fuel to carry passengers.  I'm not sure whether those numbers are literally just for the passengers' weight or also, presumably, for the extra clothing and perhaps even larger luggage.  Same goes for cars carrying people.  And, even more interestingly, if those change, then what about all the other effects such as how the increasing price of fuel will change the amount of money people have to spend for other things.

We can realistically only trace the effects so far.  The key is that the numbers of dollars and cents may be a bit bigger than we had previously anticipated.  

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