Obesity costs Saudi Arabia $19 billion annually: Study

Riyadh: A study showed that obesity is costing Saudi Arabia $19 billion annually and this figure could skyrocket by 2060 if the problem is not addressed, according to the study conducted by World Obesity Federation and RTI and published by the British Medical Journal.

The study surveyed eight countries, and found that obesity is costing the Kingdom the equivalent of 2.4 per cent of the oil-rich kingdom’s gross domestic product (GDP).

It is reported that, the obesity rate in the Gulf state is 35 per cent, which puts pressure on the medical sector. It also leads to negative labor productivity and early mortality.

These costs are derived from calculations based on direct expenses such as health care, as well as indirect costs, including premature death and absence. Indirect costs were found to account for 65 per cent of total impacts. The study focused on Saudi Arabia, Australia, Brazil, India, Mexico, South Africa, Spain, and Thailand.

Johanna Ralston, Executive Director of the World Obesity Federation, told Arab News that, Saudi Arabia was selected as part of the study because it “has among the highest rates of obesity in adults and children in the world.”

The study points out that the cause of obesity in the Gulf state does not only stem from individuals, but rather has “social, biological and environmental motives”.

As per the media reports, many Gulf states share the same issue of high obesity rates.

Ralston praised the Saudi government’s initiatives to tackle obesity and stressed the need to address obesity at government and community level by supporting people to live healthier lives.

“Governments urgently needs to implement comprehensive policies that improve access to low-cost nutritious food and affordable health care, and allow their citizens to lead balanced lives free from stress and adverse events,” Ralston added.