The current social annual cost of obesity in the UK is estimated to stand at around £58bn – the equivalent to 3% of the 2020 UK GDP – according to a new independent study led by Frontier Economics and commissioned by Novo Nordisk.

The analysis, which includes both direct and indirect costs widely cited, also incorporates costs not typically included in previous studies. For the first time, obesity-related risks associated with COVID-19 are also considered.

It is hoped that this breadth of data will more accurately map out the impact of obesity in the UK, which was previously estimated at around £27bn, based on a report published by the Government Office for Science in 2007.

Although there is no single solution to resolve the issue, interventions exist which could be promoted in order to help reduce current and future prevalence of obesity. These include improving the information and education of healthy eating, direct treatment to reduce weight and associated health problems, with better access to services or resources which can support and assist those living with obesity.

“At Novo Nordisk, we understand that excess weight can be caused by a myriad of different factors, not all of which are lifestyle-focused,” explained Dr Avideh Nazeri, vice president clinical, medical and regulatory, Novo Nordisk UK. “A one-size-fits-all approach is no longer the way forward and we need to provide support for people living with obesity that not only tackles the physical barriers they face to getting help, but also the mental, emotional and social barriers.”

In addition, the data suggested a case for targeting interventions in line with local needs.

Matthew Bell, head of public policy at Frontier Economics, elaborated: “The £58bn headline cost masks the variations across the country in terms of the prevalence and social costs of obesity, which are often relatively higher in areas with lower economic prosperity.”

“This suggests a strong case to implement well-targeted interventions which meet the diverse needs of people with obesity to support sustained weight-loss and weight management, while also focusing on prevention,” he added.