More than 85,000 children to die prematurely over obesity – study

Safefood Ireland research shows childhood obesity to cost island of Ireland billions

It is estimated that more that 85,000 children will die prematurely due to of childhood obesity and overweight, new research shows.

The Safefood Ireland study also found that the total lifetime cost of childhood obesity in Ireland is estimated to cost €7.2billion euros.

The total costs south of the Border accounted for €4.6 billion, with £2.1 billion in Northern Ireland.

The study which was led by University College Cork found that 21 per cent of total costs in the Republic of Ireland represented direct healthcare costs.

The research also found that a reduction in lifetime costs attributable to childhood overweight and obesity could be expected if there was a reduction in mean childhood Body Mass Index (BMI).

A one per cent reduction in BMI across the island would save €365 million, while a 5 per cent reduction would generate savings of €1.5 billion.

The research also estimated the cost per person on the island. In the Republic of Ireland the cost was more than €16,000 per person, while in Northern Ireland it was more than £18,000 per person.

Prof Kevin Balanda from the Institute of Public Health in Ireland, noted that the research contributes to a larger EU-funded project that is led by the public health institute in Ireland.

“As well as financial costs, the research emphasises the human impact of childhood obesity and overweight. In particular, it estimated that over 85,000 children on the island will die prematurely because of childhood obesity and overweight.

“The estimates of lifetime costs are likely to be conservative because they do not include the psycho-social impacts on schooling, social life and work prospects and monetary value of productivity in older people,” he added.

Director of human health and nutrition at Safefood, Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, noted that the research highlighted the health, social and economic costs associated with the very high levels of overweight and obese children in Ireland.

“One in four children on the island of Ireland are overweight or obese and with a 70 per cent risk of this tracking into adulthood, this can result in lifelong and inter-generational ill health.

“Much can and must be done to lessen this otherwise inevitable and unacceptable burden on society and implementing the obesity strategies North and South is the way forward,” she said.

Safefood Ireland acknowledged that while the figures from their research do not reflect the full human and social costs, they show cases for obesity prevention especially given the huge economic burden these costs could place on future generations.