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Economic Impact of Obesity increased to $1.4 Trillion, says Milken Institute

News Release
Economic Impact of Obesity increased to $1.4 Trillion, says Milken Institute

New report offers tools to create community-based solutions to address high obesity rates

Los Angeles – Dec. 7, 2020 –  The economic and social impact of obesity has risen to nearly $1.4 trillion dollars, up from $976 billion in 2014 according to the Milken Institute’s newest report, “Weighing Down America: 2020 Update.” New this year, report authors analyzed US county-level data to design eight community attribute profiles that identify the most predominant factors related to high obesity rates and subsequently offer insights into possible community-based approaches to address obesity.

To develop the profiles, the authors utilized the Milken Institute’s COVID-19 Community Explorer, which explores socioeconomic, demographic, and health-related features across more than 2,800 US counties. Regardless of geographic differences, these profiles reiterate that obesity is a complex chronic disease resulting from social, environmental, and genetic factors, in addition to behavioral factors.

These profiles reveal that obesity impacts populations in the US differently. For instance, obesity prevalence increased more with males compared to females, and of all age groups, 40-59 is most at risk.

“Our research reveals that obesity impacts American population segments differently, which presents an opportunity for policymakers, business leaders, industry, and nonprofits to tailor solutions to non-geographic clusters experiencing high rates of obesity,” said Claude Lopez, PhD, report author and head of the Research Department at the Milken Institute. “By tapping into the community profiles within our data sets, this could result in new, scalable solutions at the county level that reduce the rate of obesity.”

Key findings from “Weighing Down America” and the community analyses include:

  • The economic and social impact of obesity is at an all-time high. The estimated cost of obesity is roughly 6.76 percent of gross domestic product in 2018 compared to 5.57 percent in 2014. The current pandemic is likely to raise this cost even higher.

  • Obesity impacts segments of the American population differently, with men experiencing higher rates of obesity. From 2014 to 2018, obesity prevalence rates increased in the male population, especially white males and males of all races aged 20-59. In contrast, the data show slight decreases in the obesity rates for Hispanic women and all women aged 40-59. Black and Hispanic populations and individuals aged 40-59 remain the groups with the highest obesity rate.

  • Social and behavioral factors correlate highly with obesity. These include factors such as unemployment, excessive drinking, smoking, post-secondary education, and single-parent households.

  • Policymakers and community leaders can properly combine and analyze data to inform policies that address obesity, both on the local and federal level. Milken Institute research suggests that some aspects of the obesity epidemic can be better addressed at the local level, while others might benefit from federal action. National and local authorities can process these data sets in coordination with community partners such as health-care professionals, business and community leaders, schools, and child care facilities to drive actionable policy reform.

“Weighing Down America: 2020 Update” is co-authored by Claude Lopez, Joseph Bendix, and Ken Sagynbekov. The full report can be downloaded here.

Media Contact:

Enxhi Myslymi, [email protected], + 1 (203) 721-4840.

About the Milken Institute

The Milken Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank that helps people build meaningful lives in which they can experience health and well-being, pursue effective education and gainful employment, and access the resources required to create ever-expanding opportunities for themselves and their broader communities. For more information, visit