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Welfare Diseases – obesity

We are increasingly confronted with conditions such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular problems, joint pains and psychological problems even at a younger age. The cause and the increase of these so-called welfare diseases is attributed to societal and technological changes. The development of fast and cheap production processes, unlimited access to (online) facilities, and more sedentary professions. This has led to an increase in factors such as perceived stress, sleep deprivation and pollution, as well as a continuous supply of cheap, highly processed foods, with additions of sugar, salt and fat to extend shelf life and flavor enhancement.

Obesity is clearly an eating and lifestyle related problem. This problem has intensified in recent years. In the Netherlands, in 1990, one in three adults (35.1%) was moderately or seriously overweight (BMI >25), a number sharply increased to 48.8% of all adults in 2017. The percentage of people who are seriously overweight (obese , BMI> 30) doubled from 6.2 to 13.9% in the same period. Both increase in overweight and obese people is significant. Over 50% of Dutch adults are now overweight and 15% are obese1.

Overweight and obese people perceive their health as significantly worse than those with a healthy weight. This is evident from a questionnaire survey published in 2016 by the University Medical Center Groningen among nearly 90,000 Dutch people.

Health costs 

Obesity and associated chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer reduce life expectancy in the Netherlands by 2.3 years. In the next 30 years, the Netherlands will spend over 10% of the total healthcare budget for obesity and comorbities, which amounts to ~€317 per person. These costs can be reduced by investing in obesity prevention. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has calculated this in 2019 for 52 countries, including the Netherlands2.

How (un) healthy will we live in the future?

With Trendscenarios to identify future societal challenges for public health and care, the RIVM (National Institute for Public Health and the Environment) has explored possible developments between now and 20403. This analysis is based on continuation of historical trends without the introduction of new policies and taking into account future size and age composition of the population. Their findings:

1. We are gaining weight; by 2040, 62% of adult Dutch people will be overweight.

2. The increase in overweight applies to all age groups above 18 years.

3. For men moderate overweight will increase, for women it will be obesity

If there is no active effort to reduce and prevent obesity, the numbers do look bleak …

Insights and self-management

However, this is the time of artificial intelligence, biomarkers, big data, mobile technology, personalized approach and self-management. Insight into your own biology, awareness of  your eating- and lifestyle habits and researching what works best for you. You can do it yourself. And Clear. can help you with that! Scan. Log. Learn. Clear.

Sources (partly in Dutch):




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