Monday 13 May 2024

Obesity and worklessness

It's European Congress on Obesity week so expect non-stop, unpublished obesity research to be in the media regularly. The Times has put some of it on its front page today. The study seems OK but the interpretation is way off. I've written about it for The Spectator...

There has certainly been a rise in worklessness since the pandemic. The number of people of working age who are economically inactive has risen from 8.5 million to 9.4 million. This includes 2.8 million people who say they are too sick to work. Almost all of the increase in economic inactivity is explained by this rise in long-term sickness. 

Is obesity the ‘root cause’ of the problem? It seems unlikely. Despite obesity rates rising for several decades, there had been no increase in the number of people off work with long-term illness since the 1990s. Between 2000 and 2019, the number actually fell – from 2.3 million to 2 million, but since 2020 another 800,000 people have suddenly joined their ranks.

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