Call for policy rethink as 'obesity is not going to bankrupt NHS'
Overweight and obese people dying early saves taxpayers billions and means obesity's impact on the public purse has been overblown, a think tank has claimed.
The Institute of Economic Affairs estimates these premature deaths save UK taxpayers some £3.6 billion on things like pensions, healthcare and benefits every year.
Their analysis suggests the net cost of obesity is therefore less than £2.5 billion, or 0.3% of public spending - less than half the most commonly cited estimate.
Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the institute, called for an end to "making scapegoats of people who happen to be fat".
Mark Tovey, author of the Obesity And The Public Purse report, added: "The public deserve better than shoddy guesstimates and exaggerations.
"Our rigorous, step-by-step estimate of the net cost of obesity on government finances shows the real figure to be less than £2.5 billion.
"This is not a trivial amount of money, but it is only 0.3% of government spending.
"Despite the claims of some of the more excitable campaigners, obesity is not going to bankrupt the NHS."
The analysis looks at 35,820 lives that were lost in England and Wales in 2014 due to obesity-caused illness, and how much it would have cost the Government if these people lived for an average of 12 years longer.
The report's authors say the UK's ageing population is putting more strain on resources in the NHS and public health rather than obesity.
They also criticise "regressive policies" such as the sugar tax.
Mr Snowdon said: "Given the NHS is currently in the icy grip of a winter-related spike in demand, the topic of healthcare costs could not be more pertinent.
"Every year, the public price of increased longevity is brought into focus as the cold weather drives a growing number of frail pensioners en masse into ailing A&E departments around the country.
"It is good news that we are living longer, but we must get to grips with the financial consequences of this, rather than making scapegoats of people who happen to be fat."