Obesity crisis costing Scotland £5.3bn per year, charity says

Most of the cost is borne by people's reduced quality of life and their deaths, a new report by Nesta claims.

Obesity costs Scotland more than £5bn a year, with thousands of years in healthy life lost, a charity has said.

A new report by Nesta claims that the total annual cost of obesity in Scotland is £5.3bn and it will rise to nearly £6bn by 2030.

According to the research, £4.1bn of the total cost is borne by people through reduced quality of life and lives lost.

The charity calculated that cost using quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) – a measure used in public health research to quantify the value of healthy years of life.

Remaining costs include a £776m annual bill for the NHS, which goes towards treating obesity-related conditions and £4m for mental health issues related to obesity.

The research calculates a further £217m cost to the family and carers of those living with obesity through time spent on informal care, as well as a £29m annual cost to the formal social care sector.

Nesta added that Scotland’s economy and employers face an annual cost of £213m in lost productivity, with figures from 2022 used in all calculations.

The research, carried out by Frontier Economics on behalf of Nesta, shows that the two-fifths of the population who live in the most deprived communities bear nearly half (48%) of the cost.

The report suggests that, given current predicted growth trends in the number of people living with obesity in Scotland, the annual cost will be £5.9bn by 2030, with cumulative costs over this period estimated to be £50.5bn.

Frances Bain, Nesta Scotland’s health lead, said: “Reducing obesity is about saving and improving lives and when the personal and economic cost is this high, it’s clear that bold and urgent action is needed.

“Policies such as the Good Food Nation Act and the new Eating Out Eating Well Framework are positive, but delaying the decisions on restricting promotions and introducing calorie labelling is disappointing given the severity of the crisis and high cost being paid by us.

“Governments – and industry – need to go much further faster.”

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