The media is all over a report by McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) which claims being fat costs the world economy $2 trillion.


And if that isn’t bad enough, it is also one of those papers that predicts that in the near future fatties will be close to ruling the world. I wish. Okay, it just predicts that we will be close to overrunning the world, and implies, as a result, we will ruin the world for everybody else.

Oh, and “[m]uch of the global debate on this issue has become polarized and sometimes deeply antagonistic,” and this is “obstructing efforts to address rising rates of obesity.” So shame on the fat community and its supporters for even attempting to enter the discussion.

My objections to this current claim that fatties are expensive and high maintenance are:

First, I have a problem with any research that claims obesity is “preventable”. It may be preventable in some cases, but being fat is a really complex issue (which MGI admits) and the reason someone is fat varies – a lot. Despite admitting this is a complex issue with no single or simple solution, and they still claim “the problem – which is preventable – is rapidly getting worse.” Fuck you.

Second, two years ago the Canadian government published research that found that in overweight people, there is no significant increase in healthcare cost from not-fat people, and that the cost only becomes significant at the highest ranges of obesity. The paper also found that there is no direct relationship between BMI and mortality once age and gender are accounted for.

One of the primary arguments concerning the effect of fat folks on the economy is increased healthcare costs. However, in 2008 MGI produced a report on the Cost of US Healthcare that found:

Of the $2.1 trillion the United States spends on health care, nearly $650 billion is above expected, even when adjusting for the relative wealth of the US economy.

While many might argue that higher health care spending is a consequence of demand due to the fact that Americans are sicker than people in other OECD countries, MGI analysis suggests that Americans are collectively slightly healthier than the citizens of these peer countries.

Also you might want to check out my niece’s blog posts regarding fat people and healthcare costs, who does a great job in looking at whether fat people are driving up healthcare costs:

Third, as far as I can tell, nobody is talking about the one preventable fat-related-issue – the reduction (or dare I hope, elimination of) fat discrimination.  And of course, studies of fat-related healthcare costs usually don’t separate out the costs directly (and indirectly) attributable to ineffective (and sometimes dangerous) weight loss treatments.  Nor do they seem to take into account the mental and physical damage this discrimination can lead to.

Last but definitely not least, the MGI report is not peer reviewed. In fact, the research is paid for by its parent company, McKinsey & Company, a business management consulting giant.

Hmmmm, what could that mean?

It means that there is no way of knowing who actually funded the research and for what reason. We can’t know who paid McKinsey & Company to have the research done and the paper prepared. It creates the illusion that the MGI report is done with no conflicts of interest. Knowing who is behind a research paper can go a long way to assessing any bias the paper might reflect.

Just saying.



  1. A brilliant essay! One component of costs relative to fat patients in healthcare settings that is never mentioned, is the excessive prices of much of the bariatric furniture/beds/exam tables that are higher-weight-rated, primarily because they are not made or procured in high quantity under competitive circumstances; whereas if most such healthcare-related furniture were higher-weight-rated, the actual costs would come down. But nobody in the industries making bariatric furniture and supplies will tell you that.

    Here’s another: Fat people are so fearful of disrespectful care by doctors and medical staff that they will often postpone treatment of conditions until they become acute and life-threatening, which costs a lot more to treat. And who can be blamed for dreading being bullied by healthcare “professionals”? Fortunately, not all doctors or nurses are like that.

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