HEALTH

Physical Inactivity Is Costing Australia Nearly $1 Billion A Year

It's a "global pandemic".

29/07/2016 1:11 PM AEST | Updated 29/07/2016 3:04 PM AEST
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Sian Kennedy
Physical Inactivity is costing Australia and the World a lot of money, a new study shows.

Physical inactivity is costing the world, and Australia, money. A lot of money.

A world first study, published on Friday in medical journal The Lancet, estimates $US67.5 billion was spent globally in healthcare expenditure and lost productivity in 2013.

Led the leader of the current Lancet physical activity series, Sydney University Senior Research Fellow Dr Melody Ding, the study gives a glimpse into the enormous economic burden of an increasingly sedentary world.

"Physical inactivity is recognised as a global pandemic that not only leads to diseases and early deaths, but imposes a major burden to the economy," said Dr Ding in a statement.

John Slater
The report shows Australia spends an estimated $640m in direct costs such as healthcare expenditure, and $165m in indirect costs such as lost productivity.

Dr Ding said of the $US67.8 billion spent globally in 2013, Australia foots a bill of more than $AUD805 million.

But Dr Ding -- conservative methodologies used by the team and lack of data in many countries -- noted that at a global and individual country level these figures are likely to be an underestimate of the real cost.

Based on data from 142 countries, representing 93.2 percent of the world's population, the study examined the direct health-care cost, productivity losses, and disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) for five major non-communicable diseases attributable to inactivity.

Type 2 Diabetes was the costliest disease, accounting for $US37.6bn (70 percent) of direct costs.

The diseases were coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and colon cancer.

"Our study has shown that the economic burden of physical inactivity is distributed unequally across regions, and disproportionately with high-income countries bearing a larger proportion of economic burden and low and middle-income countries having a larger proportion of the disease burden," Dr Ding said.

Ultimately, poor households pay the most in terms of premature death and disease.

"Generally, poorer countries don't have their health needs met due to less developed health and economic systems," Dr Ding said.

Steve Cole
Collectively, Australian households are conservatively estimated to spend $124m for physical inactivity-related diseases

Dr Ding warned that as these countries develop economically, so too will the consequent economic burden, if the pandemic of physical inactivity spreads as expected.

"Globally, the economic burden of physical inactivity is projected to increase, particularly in low and middle-income countries, if no action is taken to improve population levels of physical activity," Dr Ding said.

"It's also important to consider where the economic burden falls, including on the public sector, private sector, and out-of-pocket household expenditures."

The University of Sydney's Professor Adrian Bauman, also a member of the Lancet Physical Activity Series Steering Committee said the research provided further justification to prioritise promotion of regular physical activity worldwide.

"Increasing physical activity levels in communities is an important investment that governments should consider which could lead to savings in healthcare costs and more productivity in the labour market," Bauman said.

Earlier in the week Lancet published a study suggesting an hour of walking after work could cancel out the negative effect of sitting at a desk all day.

The study found sitting for more than eight hours per day without taking exercise increased the risk of dying prematurely by 60 percent, with particular risks of heart disease and cancer increasing with an inactive lifestyle.

But the report also found that this increased risk was eliminated when workers took one hour's moderate activity a day, such as a brisk walk or cycle.

Counting the cost of global of inactivity: 2013 (US dollars)

$67.5bn: Total costs, including $53.8bn in direct cost (healthcare expenditure) and 13.7bn in indirect costs (productivity losses)

$31.2bn: Total loss in tax revenue through public healthcare expenditure

$12.9bn: Total amount in private sector pays for physical inactivity-related diseases (e.g. health insurance companies)

$9.7bn: Total amount households paid out-of-pocket for physical inactivity-related diseases

Type 2 Diabetes was the costliest disease, accounting for $37.6bn (70 per cent) of direct costs.

Counting the cost of global of inactivity in Australia: 2013 (Australian dollars)

AUD$805m: Total costs, including AUD$640m in direct costs (healthcare expenditure) and AUD$165m in indirect costs (loss in productivity)

AUD$425m: Total loss in tax revenue through public healthcare expenditure

AUD$91m: Total amount in private sector pays for physical inactivity-related diseases (e.g. health insurance companies)

AUD$124m: Total amount households paid out-of-pocket for physical inactivity-related diseases

Source: The Economic Burden Of Physical Inactivity: A Global Analysis Of Major Non-Communicable Diseases

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