Wednesday, March 10, 2004

The NAO on obesity deaths

Following the scare stories from America that 400,000 lives per year are lost due to obesity, I was looking for figures on when people die from obesity-related disease. The National Audit Office report, Tackling Obesity in England (2001), states:

'In addition to the associated illness, we estimate that over 30,000 deaths in England were attributable to obesity in 1998, approximately six per cent of all deaths in that year. This compares to about 10 per cent of all deaths due to smoking, and less than one per cent from road accidents. In total, this amounted to 275,000 lost years of life - in other words, on average, each person whose death could be attributed to obesity lost nine years of life.

Some 9,000 of the deaths related to obesity occurred before state retirement age, resulting in a loss of over 40,000 years of working life by the time most people aim to have retired.'

The one category never mentioned in these breakdowns of mortality causes is old age. Six percent of deaths are apparently due to obesity, but 20 per cent of us are apparently obese. So, even if these figures are correct, obesity seems to have a one-in-three risk of premature death.