The Impact of Obesity on Society

The Impact of Obesity on Society

Obesity defined

Obesity refers to an excess of body fat and the Obesity Action Coalition suggests two common methods to determine whether an individual is obese.

The first is Body Mass Index (BMI) or the ratio of weight to height, which takes a person’s weight in kilograms and divides it by the square of their height in meters. Anyone with a BMI of more than 30 is considered obese.


The second method is measuring Waist Circumference, and for women more than 35 inches or for men more than 40 inches are obesity indicators.

Causes of obesity

Energy imbalance

Eating too many calories – the energy in, is greater than the energy you use to live – the energy out. Gaining weight happens gradually over time if the energy in is more than the energy out for a prolonged amount of time. One of the best ways to avoid weight gain is to change the energy imbalance so that the energy out is greater than the energy in.

Whether it is cardiovascular, weight training, swimming, dancing, or walking, it only takes 30 minutes of movement to help burn off some calories.

Inactive lifestyle, environment, emotions, and behavior

In spite of the fact that life seems to be going at warp speed, we are spending much more time being sedentary and many of us are stressed out.

Changing behavior can be difficult, but turning off the TV, finding ways to relax and connect with our bodies, and engaging in daily regular exercise is crucial.

Genetics, medicines, age, pregnancy, and health conditions

Some people are genetically predisposed to weight gain, while others take medications such as anti-depressants, which can lead to a few added pounds. Hypothyroidism, pregnancy, as well as aging may make people more prone to adding body fat.

The Impact of Obesity on SocietyImpact of obesity on the person – the burden is private

Obese individuals are at risk for numerous medical conditions such as Type II diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, high cholesterol, and some cancers.

Obesity may also exacerbate respiratory, digestive, sleep, and musculoskeletal issues.

In addition, overweight and obese people often deal with social stigma, ridicule, and bias, which can lead to stress, anxiety, emotional problems, and depression.

Consequently, obese people are met with difficulties finding employment, relationships, may have impaired quality of life, lack of mobility, and merely engaging in social environments and settings can be a challenge.

Obese children also face a myriad of similar stigma, ridicule, and even harassment from fellow students and teachers.

Impact of obesity on society – the burden is shared

Obesity is a preventable medical condition, and even though the impact of obesity on the individual is deleterious it also affects society.  The unfortunate consequences may be somewhat apparent such as the personal and medical effects noted above; however, there are also numerous direct financial costs on the economy associated with obesity.

As the number of obese individuals has escalated so have the health care costs needed to treat the illnesses and secondary medical conditions that are linked including surgery, time in hospitals, medical and laboratory testing, medications, transportation, and home health care and therapies.

The State of Obesity “estimates these (health care) costs range from $147 billion to nearly $210 billion per year in the United States” (State of Obesity. 2016).

Furthermore, there are also indirect costs and losses, which are harder to measure.

Obese people are prone to premature aging and mortality, potentially require assistance or special equipment, face higher insurance premiums, lower wages, and may miss work more frequently or be unable to perform at their best, which leads to a loss in productivity.

Connect with WatchFit Expert Leslie Olsen.


Obesity Action Coalition. (2016). What is Obesity?

State of Obesity. (2016). The Healthcare Costs of Obesity.