Commenting on the McKinsey report that found obese people cost the UK £47 billion a year, Head of Policy at the Adam Smith Institute, Ben Southwood, said:
We do not want to live in a society where we tot up how much each person or group of persons 'puts in' and 'takes out', but in any case the premise here is faulty. Existing studies find that obese people cost the health service less in total, over their lifetimes, than the non-obese. Healthy people cost the most, because they require far more end of life care.
The McKinsey report finds a different result—that the obese cost the UK £47bn per year—partly through counting it as a 'cost' when people produce less output over their lives due to obesity. Part of the difference is down to looking at annual, and not life-cycle, numbers. But we don't call it a 'cost' when people decide to become teachers or nurses, who rate their jobs as more satisfying, but are less economically productive than accountants or lawyers.
It may be that reducing obesity will make people happier and healthier, and if so then we should make it as easy as possible for people to lose weight. But we should not rush to believing that the overweight are costing the rest of us.
Notes to editors:
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The Adam Smith Institute is an independent libertarian think tank based in London. It advocates classically liberal public policies to create a richer, freer world.