Consequences of Obesity

The consequences of obesity fall into categories; medical, economical, social, and psychological consquences. Some of the consequences of being overweight, or even obese, are obvious. Keep reading to learn more about the many consequences of obesity.


Obesity is defined as having a body mass index greater than 30 (often written BMI>30). Besides the issues that it causes in its own right, there are other short-term and long-term consequences of obesity. These could be viewed as falling into four categories:

  • Medical/Health Consequences of Obesity
  • Economic Consequences of Obesity
  • Social Consequences of Obesity
  • Psychological Consequences of Obesity

This article provides an overview of these four different types of consequences of obesity.

Medical/Health Consequences of Obesity

There are a number of concerning health issues of different degrees of severity that studies have linked to obesity.

  • Breathing Problems - More obese people suffer from sleep apnea and asthma than people with healthy weights.
  • Cancer - Being obese increases the associated risk for colon, endometrial, gall bladder, kidney, prostate, and postmenopausal breast cancer.
  • Diabetes - Obese people make up over 80% of the population with diabetes.
  • Heart Disease - A BMI greater than 25 increases the chance of various types of heart disease, including abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmia), angina, chest pain, congestive heart failure, heart attack, and sudden cardiac death. Obesity is also a risk factor for high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
  • Musculo-skeletal Issues - Obesity can lead to joint pain and teen obesity more often than not leads to adult obesity.
  • Premature Death - People with a BMI higher than 30 have between a 50 and 100% greater risk of dying prematurely from all causes. It is estimated that premature deaths linked to obesity account for 300,00 deaths each year.
  • Reproduction - If a woman is obese during pregnancy, there is an increased risk of death for both mother and child. Other risks include maternal high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, labor and delivery problems, high birthweight babies who need to be delivered by Caesarean section, babies with low blood sugar (associated with seizures and brain damage, and the risk of birth defects, such as spina bifida and neural tube defects. In premenopausal women, obesity can be associated with infertility and irregular menstrual cycles, as well as with polycystic ovarian syndrome.

Also, they it may seem unlikely on the surface, obese individuals can suffer from malnourishment because their bodies lack essential nutrients. This is because, although an obese person takes in more than enough calories, he or she may not be eating foods that supply the vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids that his or her body needs for health.

Economic Consequences of Obesity

The health issues associated with obesity lead to economic consequences, as medical expenses are incurred. Clothing and food may also be more expensive. Job discrimination against people who are obese has impact on the person’s potential for earning a living and reaching his or her career potential. Certain jobs for which the person is otherwise well-qualified may not be possible due to limitations on physical capability and endurance. Absenteeism at work may result from the health issues associated with obesity and productivity may be diminished. Discrimination may also occur in the college admission process. In short, obesity has adverse effects on both income and educational attainment.

Social Consequences of Obesity

Since appearance is one of the elements of attraction, the appearance of someone who is obese can interfere with the person’s ability to form romantic relationships. Side effects of obesity, such as decrease in stamina and difficulty in pursuing certain pastimes, may mean that activities that one’s friends are colleagues are participating in are not readily available to the obese person. But wider social discrimination is also an issue, and obese people may be teased, shunned, stigmatized, and excluded. The socioeconomic impact of obesity takes a significant toll on adolescents and young adults.

Psychological Consequences of Obesity

Obesity is associated with poor self-esteem, increased chance of clinical depression, and eating disorders.  In fact, since depression is  a predictor of obesity in adolescents, some have raised the question of whether there is a cyclical relationship between the two disorders. Also associated are anxiety, negative body image, and These can manifest in behavioral issues as well. During childhood, the psychological impact is likely to have the largest impact.

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