Childhood obesity is a health issue that affects many children. Its costs are many and include not only health related issues, but financial ones as well. Much effort has been put forth by medical professionals, scientists, government authorities, and individuals in fighting childhood obesity rates and improving health.
One of the key ways to fight childhood obesity is understanding the long-lasting effects and the numerous costs associated with the condition. It’s easy to say that childhood obesity affects the health of a child, but there are so many other hidden consequences that need to be addressed.
The Truth of Childhood Obesity Rates
The current rates of childhood obesity are sadly not very positive, despite good efforts being made by both individuals and organizations. However, one of the best ways to combat a health issue is to be informed about its scope.
According to information provided by the CDC, childhood obesity rates have more than doubled for children under the age of adolescence (ages 6 to 11) and quadrupled for adolescents (ages 12 to 19) over the last 30 years. In terms of percentages, children ages 6 to 11 had an obesity rate of 7 percent in 1980 compared to 18 percent in 2012. Similarly, adolescents ages 12 to 19 had an obesity rate of 5 percent in 1980 compared to 21 percent in 2012.
To summarize, more than one third of adolescents and children were overweight or obese according to research in 2012.
Health Consequences of Childhood Obesity
The health consequences of childhood obesity are well known and widely reported. Childhood obesity leads to health issues commonly reported in those that are overweight. This includes diabetes, heart disease, and breathing related conditions such as asthma and sleep apnea.
Aside from physical ailments, there are psychological and sociological issues such as low self esteem, bullying, and being ostracized, which affect a child’s overall well being and social development. These experiences can have lasting negative consequences which linger into adulthood.
The Economic Costs of Childhood Obesity
The direct costs of childhood obesity are easily quantified. Obesity in general accounts for a great deal of healthcare related expense. Annually, 190.2 billion dollars are spent in relation to illnesses caused by obesity. This accounts for 21 percent of the annual amount spent on healthcare in the United States.
Childhood obesity alone accounts for 14 billion dollars in medical expenses every year. One of the factors that makes childhood obesity such a costly condition is that it typically remains in adulthood. Ingrained behavior patterns and approaches to health and exercise are very difficult to change. By reducing childhood obesity levels, billions of dollars would be saved over the next two decades alone.
The Hidden Costs of Childhood Obesity
While you can easily look up and verify the direct costs of childhood obesity, the indirect costs are ones you may not have even considered. These costs are also vast in scope and scale and having lingering effects individuals as well as society at large.
Obesity has been linked to delayed skill acquisition. This causes a compounding effect that continues through childhood, adolescence, and all the way to adulthood. When skill acquisition is slowed, this has a negative impact on academic performance and learning overall. This can lead to poor performance in the education system along with slowed development of needed skillsets for future employment opportunities. In this case, childhood obesity causes a negative impact on future employment and is linked to lower overall earnings.
Additionally, obese children have a high chance of becoming obese adults. This in turn leads to greater absenteeism at work due to health related issues. It is estimated that this increased absenteeism costs 4.3 billion annually. Aside from attendance issues, obesity also affects overall performance and lowers productivity while on the job as well. It is estimated that an obese worker will be $508 per year less productive in their profession then they would be otherwise.
Fighting Childhood Obesity
Childhood obesity affects more than you may at first realize, and it can have long lasting costs. Medical costs and the overall medical expenses related to obesity are easily understood. However, there are much greater (and longer lasting) societal effects to consider.
Obesity’s link to lower performance and skill building in the educational system can have effects that last a lifetime. Plus, even when educational challenges are overcome by hard work, obesity still negatively impacts your job performance. Obesity lowers attendance, productivity, and even earnings due to its impact on your overall health.
Fortunately, there is no better time to fight childhood obesity than now. There are so many resources, organizations, and accessible surgical solutions to stop obesity before it becomes a lifelong problem. By increasing awareness, knowledge, and pursuing effective solutions, we can protect our children before it’s too late.