Obesity ‘could cost us £3 billion a year’

Scotland is sitting on an obesity timebomb that could end up costing the country £3 billion a year, according to a report released on Sunday.

The report warns that the number of people classed as obese could double, to 40 per cent of the population, within the next 20 years. An estimated 3,400 people already die every year as a direct result of obesity.

The Scottish Government report, to be formally launched tomorrow, has warned that the cost to the taxpayer could end up at more than six times its current level of £457 million a year unless something is done.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: “Scotland is in the grip of an obesity epidemic.”

The report warns that people must change their ways to prevent costs from spiralling. The cost of treating conditions linked to obesity, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, is already estimated at £175 million, or two per cent of NHS Scotland’s entire revenue budget, while indirect costs, such as sickness absence, are estimated to cost the taxpayer £282 million each year.

Ms Sturgeon said that a further rise in these costs would “directly impact on our nation’s ability to achieve sustainable economic growth”.

She added : “Initiatives are already under way to help prevent obesity but we need to do much more. This is not simply a health issue, nor can we expect individuals to change behaviour entirely on their own.”

Public Health Minister Shona Robison will launch the Government’s obesity strategy on Monday during a visit to St Mark’s Primary School in Barrhead, East Renfrewshire.

The document, Preventing Overweight and Obesity in Scotland - A Route Map Towards Healthy Weight, will set out the scale of the problem and changes that need to be made.

Last updated: 21 February 2010, 14:19

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