London: As the British take the title of the fatest in Europe, experts warn that the obesity epidemic could damage the economy.
But this could all be changed if talented professionals die early or retire because of sickness.
Professor Martin McKee said that the British Treasury has identified the cost of obesity to the NHS as a major problem but research shows how much healthy people contribute to the health of the economy.
He said: “They remain in the workforce longer and are more productive while they are at work. This is vital as the overall age of the population rises and people are encouraged to retire later.
‘”t is a waste of money investing in training people if they die at 35 or retire in their 50s because of ill health.”
The team at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, examined the link between health and wealth in rich countries, and found healthier people have higher earnings.
The study, published in the British Medical Journal, said the current economic wealth of rich countries ‘owes much to previous health gains’.
About 30 per cent of financial growth in the United Kingdom between 1790 and 1980 can be attributed to better health and dietary intake.
Professor McKee said: ‘The overwhelming conclusion is that good health has benefits beyond the individual.
‘The true purpose of economic activity is to maximise social welfare and not simply to produce more goods and services.
‘Since better health is an important component of social welfare, its value ought to be included in measures of economic progress.
‘This has been done successfully in the United States. Similar moves in Europe could provide a new perspective on the investments made through their welfare states.’