x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Couch potatoes cost global economy in health charges

Today's modern couch potato lifestyle is costing the global economy more than US$30 billion a year in costs related to cancer.

Today's modern couch potato lifestyle is costing the global economy more than US$30 billion a year in costs related to cancer.

Smoking, eating junk food, shunning exercise and drinking are draining the global economy of $33.9bn annually in the costs of treating breast, lung and colon cancers, according to a study by GE Healthcare.

The research conducted by GfK Bridgehead on behalf of GE Healthcare in May and June surveyed 10 countries analysing the prevalence of each of the three cancers and the costs of treating them.

Saudi Arabian nationals were ranked as the least physically active in the world, with 61.5 per cent of men and 76.2 per cent of women over the age of 18 classified as leading sedentary lifestyles, where they exercised up to just three times a month. According to the research 29.5 per cent of Saudi men and 43.5 per cent of Saudi women were classified as obese.

Saudi males also ranked poorly for smoking levels, with 24 per cent of the adult male population classified as smokers. However, the kingdom ranked better than many western countries. In Britain, 25 per cent of adult males over the age of 15 were described as smokers and in the United States the figure was 33 per cent.

The researchers estimated that the cost of treating the cancers in the kingdom at $107 million - about 0.2 per cent of the entire country's GDP and 0.3 per cent of the global costs of treating the cancers. The United States topped the list for paying the most to treat the cancers, shelling out about $18.41bn in treatment - 54 per cent of the global total - according to the study. It was followed by China, which spends about $8.57bn each year - 25.3 per cent of the global total. The researchers found that global healthcare systems could potentially save up to $25bn each year in treating these cancers by persuading people to adopt healthier lifestyles.

"The cumulative global cost of bad habits revealed in this research is staggering," said Maher Abouzeid, GE Healthcare's president and chief executive for the Middle East and Pakistan.

"I am encouraged by the potential savings that could be achieved by all of us just making a few small lifestyle changes and committing to a personal monitoring schedule."

 

lbarnard@thenational.ae