Childhood Obesity in Ireland

Wed, 22 Nov 2017
New study reveals total lifetime cost of childhood overweight and obesity on the island estimated at €7.2billion euros

New study reveals total lifetime cost of childhood overweight and obesity on the island estimated at €7.2billion euros

New safefood funded research into the cost of childhood overweight and obesity on the island of Ireland has estimated the total lifetime cost to be €7.2billion euros (€4.6 billion in the Republic Of Ireland; £2.1 billion in Northern Ireland). The study¹, led by University College Cork (UCC) and involving leading academic institutions and multidisciplinary research on the island also found that 21% of total costs in the Republic of Ireland represented direct healthcare costs i.e. hospital in-patient; out-patient; GP and drug costs. However, more than two thirds (79%) of the total lifetime costs were indirect costs due to absenteeism, premature mortality and lifetime income losses. 

The research also estimated the reduction in lifetime costs attributable to childhood overweight and obesity that could be expected if there was a 1% and 5% reduction in mean childhood Body Mass Index (BMI). With a 1% reduction in BMI, the lifetime saving on the island would be €365 million while a 5% reduction would generate savings of €1.5 billion.

Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director, Human Health & Nutrition, safefoodcontinued “This research highlights the health, social and economic costs associated with the very high levels of overweight and obesity in our children. One in four children on the island of Ireland are overweight or obese and with a 70% risk of this tracking into adulthood, this can result in lifelong and inter-generational ill health. Much can and must be done to lessen this otherwise inevitable and unacceptable burden on society and implementing the obesity strategies North and South is the way forward.” 

The research also estimated the cost per person on the island associated with overweight and obesity in children. In the Republic of Ireland, the cost was in excess of €16,000 per person while the cost in Northern Ireland, was more than £18,000 per person.

Research lead Professor Ivan Perry, University College Cork said, “The distribution of estimated costs between direct healthcare and indirect societal costs are in agreement with previous research and indicate that most of these costs are borne in adulthood rather than childhood. The findings on the scale of these costs and the future burden on society should engender a sense of urgency on the need for broad-ranging and effective public policy to tackle the epidemic of overweight and obesity in childhood. Policy initiatives such as the tax on sugar-sweetened drinks and measures designed to promote walking and cycling among children have the potential to yield substantial savings with a relatively short time.” 

An executive summary of the report “The Economic Cost of Childhood Obesity on the island of Ireland’ is available to download from the safefood website,www.safefood.eu

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