Abstract: Over the past several decades, obesity has grown into a major global epidemic. In the United States, more than two-thirds of adults are now overweight and one-third is obese. In this article, we provide an overview of the state of research on the likely economic impact of the US obesity epidemic at the national level.
Research to date has identified at least four major categories of economic impact linked with the obesity epidemic: direct medical costs, productivity costs, transportation costs, and human capital costs. We review current evidence on each set of costs in turn, and identify important gaps for future research and potential trends in future economic impacts of obesity. Although more comprehensive analysis of costs is needed, substantial economic impacts of obesity are identified in all four categories by existing research. The magnitude of potential economic impact underscores the importance of the obesity epidemic as a focus for policy and a topic for future research.