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Laziness isn't just killing us, it's costing us billions

Sedentary lifestyles worldwide cost a total of $67.5 billion, 40 percent of which in the USA, according to a study that also fingers Type 2 diabetes as the biggest problem.

by Ruby Samuels
Jul 29 2016, 3:15pm

Michelle Obama applauds as she unveils proposed updates to nutrition facts labels during remarks in the East Room of the White House in 2014 (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Many Americans go straight from bed to car to desk chair to Netflix and chill without much physical activity in between. It's not only hitting waistlines; it's hitting their collective wallet. A new study from the Lancet shows that the health consequences of sedentary lifestyles are costing the US $27.8 billion a year.

The study estimated that in 2013, sedentary lifestyles worldwide cost a total of $67.5 billion, 40 percent of which ($27.8 billion) is attributed to the USA. 142 countries, or 93.2 percent of the world's population, were analyzed. Of the 22 lifestyle diseases studies, the most expensive is Type 2 Diabetes, which claims $37.6 billion, or 70 percent of all healthcare costs.

One of the most striking findings of the study was the disparity between high-income and low-income countries. Wealthy nations like the US and the UK bear most of the economic burden of worldwide laziness (80 percent) but low and middle income nations bear as much as 75 percent of the disease burden.

As Melody Ding, lead author of the study and a senior research fellow at the University of Sydney's school of public health, told Bloomberg, "the most striking finding is not the actual number, it's the distribution of the economic burden across regions. In wealthy countries, people pay with their pockets. In less wealthy countries, they're paying with their lives."

A 2008 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine showed that in a simulated cohort of healthy American adults, physical activity could save from $14,000 to $69,000 per "quality-adjusted life year," mostly due to health care costs.

So in addition to the health risks of staying on the couch all day, Americans need to consider the burden that their lifestyles incur on their bank accounts.