Britain has the fourth highest covid death rate in the world. While it is easy to point the blame towards ineffective lockdown strategy or large elderly populations, obesity rates are also a clear factor. According to a World Health Organization-backed report, death rates have been 10 times higher in countries with a population that is 50% obese. The pandemic has brought Britain’s obesity problem into full light and this issue will be just as important to tackle in the post-covid world.
The UK has long had an obesity problem. With millions now stuck at home for months, time will tell if the obesity demographic has worsened. However, this problem will not disappear once the virus has gone. Obesity is directly linked to awful health conditions such as cancer and heart disease. The Institute of Economic Affairs calculated that this comes to the government at an annual loss of nearly £2.5 billion.
Government action to tackle obesity until now has not been effective. The sugar tax, for example, will often punish the poor more, who are unable to afford healthier alternatives. It is a fact that being poor makes you more likely to be obese. Health.org has suggested that the pandemic ‘has brought health inequalities into large focus’, with lockdowns ‘exacerbating health inequalities in years to come’. Tackling obesity directly can create a more equal society, where income will not be a factor in health.
The government now faces the key challenge of tackling the obesity demographic, in order to have a healthier population and as a means of reducing NHS spending. An end to the obesity crisis in Britain will be costly but the benefits are clear and the situation must change in order to prevent a crisis similar to the morbid situation of the past year.