| 18 May 2024, Saturday |

Obesity costing Saudi Arabia $19 billion per year: Study

According to a new study, obesity costs Saudi Arabia $19 billion per year and could skyrocket by 2060 if the problem is not addressed.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal Global Health, surveyed eight countries and discovered that obesity costs the United Kingdom the equivalent of 2.4 percent of its GDP.

The World Obesity Federation and RTI International study discovered that Saudi Arabia has the highest impact as a percentage of GDP, with an obesity rate of around 35%.

It also warned that unless “urgent action” is taken, the “economic impact in Saudi Arabia is projected to rise to 4.1 percent by 2060, the equivalent of US$78 billion.”

These costs are calculated using direct expenditures such as healthcare as well as indirect costs such as premature mortality and absenteeism from work. It was discovered that indirect costs account for 65% of total impacts.

The study emphasized that obesity levels are influenced by “social, biological, and environmental drivers,” implying that individuals are not always solely to blame for their condition.

According to Johanna Ralston, CEO of the World Obesity Federation, the Kingdom was chosen for the study because it has “among the highest rates of adult and child obesity in the world.”

“Its large and relatively young population, combined with recent efforts in obesity prevention and treatment, make Saudi Arabia an interesting case as a pilot country,” she added.

The causes of its high obesity rates, according to Ralston, are “complex,” but “eating habits, sleeping habits, and physical activity levels” are all factors.

She went on to say that most Gulf states, all of which have high obesity rates, face similar challenges.

Ralston praised the Kingdom’s initiatives, such as the Saudi Sports for All Federation’s campaigns that “encourage individuals to embrace healthy behaviors.”

“It’s also important, however, not only to provide support for individuals or families who need to make changes, but also to address the factors contributing to obesity that are outside the individual’s control,” she added. Biological, genetic, sociocultural, economic, and environmental factors are among them.”

“Effective obesity prevention, treatment, and management will not be achieved simply by pleading with people to change their behaviors,” she added.

“At the governmental and societal levels, we must consider how we can assist people in living healthier lives.” Governments must urgently implement comprehensive policies that increase access to low-cost, nutritious foods and affordable healthcare, as well as allow citizens to live balanced lives free of stress and adverse events.”

  • Arab News