Can we get this straight please? Obesity saves the NHS money


We have the public health crew on the rampage again:

Britain's junk food diet has become the leading cause of death and ill-health, ahead of smoking, according to a study published in The Lancet. The research shows that 40 per cent of NHS resources are spent dealing with ills caused by potentially preventable lifestyle factors such as unhealthy eating habits, obesity, alcohol and smoking.

We might think that since everyone pays for the NHS then everyone gets treated by the NHS. That fit person who survives to get dementia, that fattie that keels over at 40 are all deserving of the same treatment, no?

Overall, researchers found that life expectancy rose by 6.4 years between 1990 and 2013, increasing from 75.9 to 81.3 years.

And obviously something is going right. Leading to the thought that perhaps some of this is that as we don't die of other things these days then lifestyle diseases are all that's left to shuffle us off this mortal coil. But there's a vast mistake in this analysis as well:

Simon Stevens, the head of the NHS, has said the health service could be bankrupted by the strain of weight-related disease if current trends are not reversed. One in five children is obese by the time they leave primary school, and two in three adults are overweight or obese. In June, Mr Stevens said parents and society were doing something “terribly wrong” in how the next generation was being brought up, which would fuel a tide of diseases. He called for a change in the nation’s habits to turn around current trends. “Cutting down on junk food diets, couch potato lifestyles, cigarettes and booze could make Britain one of the healthiest places to live in the world, while saving taxpayers billions on future NHS costs,” Mr Stevens said.

Someone who is the head of the NHS, someone responsible for spending £120 billion or so of our money, really should understand this following point. Fatties, boozers and gaspers save the NHS money, not cost it. We've mentioned this before around here:

The researchers found that from age 20 to 56, obese people racked up the most expensive health costs. But because both the smokers and the obese people died sooner than the healthy group, it cost less to treat them in the long run.

On average, healthy people lived 84 years. Smokers lived about 77 years and obese people lived about 80 years. Smokers and obese people tended to have more heart disease than the healthy people.

Cancer incidence, except for lung cancer, was the same in all three groups. Obese people had the most diabetes, and healthy people had the most strokes. Ultimately, the thin and healthy group cost the most, about $417,000, from age 20 on.

The cost of care for obese people was $371,000, and for smokers, about $326,000.

Here is a paper on that very point.

Having us all slim, svelte, sober and pure of lung into our 90s would cost the NHS very much more money than the current level of topers, smokers and lardbuckets does.

There might well be very good reasons to advise people that the private costs of their behaviour, the years of life they will lose through their habits, might well not be worth it. But the public costs of their actions are the other way around from what is being assumed here.

And really, we do think that someone in charge of £120 billion of our money should know the difference between a positive and negative sign in front of an influence upon his budget. That's not, even in this day and age, too much to hope for, is it?