Life Lost to Obesity: Not Just Quality
Not so surprisingly, dminished life expectancy is much greater for overweight smokers. When we add the strain and damage of cigarettes to the body’s burden of obesity, the loss doubles, to around 13 years for both men and women. That’s 13 birthdays, 13 Independence Day fireworks shows, 13 years of some special child’s school pictures that will be missed. When you think about it in such personal and specific terms, those extra calories suddenly seem so much more costly.
Obesity and excess weight in adulthood are associated with large decreases in life expectancy and increases in early mortality. Because of the increasing prevalence of obesity, more efficient prevention and treatment should become high priorities in public health. But what "prevention and treatment" means depends on who you talk to, and it’s becoming an increasingly controversial issue, with some saying that excess weight is an individual problem caused by individual actions, and therefore one that should be dealt with by the people who are personally affected.
But others say that’s a gross oversimplification. Increasingly, public health official and other researchers assert that this is a social problem that deserves all the attention it can get,
While people certainly must take responsibility for their own eating practices, and families must be responsible for the dietary habits of their children, there’s more to it than that.
In our society, we are faced with what some experts refer to as our "toxic environment," and they’re not talking about chemical waste; they’re talking about the ubiquity of burgers, about soda machines in schools, about giant-sized snacks devoid of nutritional value.
They’re concerned about millions spent promoting essentially worthless foods, while education and promotion of good nutritional options languishes in unfunded media obscurity.
We face tremendous pressure to eat often and eat poorly, and there are consequences to that, for everyone, even those who are not personally overweight. American’s weight-related health expenses now exceed $130 billion per year, and that gets spread across everyone’s health costs.
And that says nothing of the incalculable economic cost to businesses and communities in lost human time and potential.
And it says nothing of the immeasurable loss to families and individuals, of those moments on birthdays and holidays, of those stories and photographs that end up missing someone, lost early to a preventable weight problem.
Obese American males lose and average of six years of life expectancy to their excess weight. Six birthdays, six family Christmases, six Super Bowl Sundays. Thinking about the consequences of obesity in such personal and specific terms, can really drive home the cost of those extra calories.