SINGAPORE — Overweight and obese adults aged 40 to 80 in Singapore are estimated to be responsible for a total of $261 million in medical and absenteeism costs annually, according to a study by Duke-NUS Medical School researchers.
Of the amount, the estimated medical cost was $178 million, representing 1.6 per cent of total healthcare expenditure in the city-state recorded in 2019, the study's findings released on Monday (3 October) show.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines overweight as having body-mass index (BMI) ranging between 25.0 and 29.9 kg/m2 and obese as having a BMI value above 30 kg/m2.
The study also found that obese adults incurred $720 more in annual medical expenditure each, or 37 per cent higher, than their counterparts with normal weight.
"The real costs of obesity are even higher as the study did not yet take into account costs for those under age 40 and other costs of obesity, such as reduced productivity while working, early retirement, and even the value of premature mortality," it added.
The study, titled “Economic Burden of Excess Weight Among Older Adults in Singapore: A Cross-Sectional Study”, involved 5,848 adults aged 40 to 80 from Singapore’s three dominant races.
Of them, 2,467 were Chinese, 2,128 were Indians and 1,253 were Malays. Those from the latter two groups are three to four times more likely to be obese than Chinese adults, according to the study. The participants were representative of the Singapore population in terms of age, housing and socioeconomic status.
The study marks the first time that the economic burden of excess weight in Singapore has been quantified, said Eric Finkelstein, professor of health services and systems research at Duke-NUS Medical School.
"This study provides a clear picture of how obesity affects the economy," said the lead author of the study, which was published in the BMJ Open journal.
According to WHO, obesity is a complex and chronic disease caused by various factors, ranging from genetic susceptibility, high energy-dense foods, low physical activity and psychosocial factors.
In Singapore, nearly 40 per cent of adult residents aged 18 to 74 are overweight or obese.
According to the National Population Health Survey 2020 by the Ministry of Health, the proportion of Singapore residents in the high risk BMI category of more than 27.5 kg/m2 increased to 20.7 per cent in 2019–2020 from 18.7 per cent in 2017.
This has likely continued to increase due to lockdowns and other effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, said the Duke-NUS study.
Do you have a story tip? Email: email@example.com.