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September 27, 2021

Obesity takes a heavy toll on your wallet: study

A new OECD report claims that Canada has a relatively high number of overweight citizens, suggesting one in four of us currently qualifies as obese — a number that’s expected to climb a further five per cent over the next decade.

Canadian obesity rates are well below those of the United States, however, which the OECD gleefully highlights as the fattest nation among its member countries.

South of the border, 70 per cent of residents are classified as overweight.

Aside from the obvious health issues, the price of all this extra weight is starting to add up both for individuals and employers in added benefits and absentee costs — especially for women, according to a recent study from George Washington University.

Researchers examined several factors, including everything from increases in sick days, short-term disability and emergency room care, to higher grocery bills and even extra gasoline (the heavier your car load, the more gas you wolf down).

The report, led by health policy professor Christine Ferguson, pulled together several previous studies into day-to-day expenditure and loss of income. Its conclusion: The annual cost of being obese is $4,879 for a woman and just $2,646 for a man.

When the researchers added the value of lost life to this, the toll was even greater: $8,365 for women and $6,518 for men.

Turns out, however, the price differential may have less to do with medical spending — health-care costs were steady across gender lines at $1,566 annually — than with discrimination.

Larger women tend to earn less than slimmer women while wages don’t differ much for men of various sizes. Generally speaking, obese women earn an average of six percent less than most other women do, the study notes.

Do you think carrying a few extra pounds has hurt you financially? Do you see evidence of a plus-size gender gap where you work?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...