Recession stress is making Americans even fatter


As if it's not bad enough that many Americans have lost jobs and retirement money to the recession, many of them are getting fatter, too.

According to a Gallup-Healthways poll, the number of people in the U.S. who tip the scales as obese rose 1.7%, or 5.5 million, in the past year. In the first quarter of this year, about 26.8% of Americans were considered obese, which is measured by having a Body Mass Index (BMI) above 30. BMI measures the ratio of height to weight.

While the 1.7% increase may seem small, health experts say this is a significant change. "A 2% increase in BMI is not trivial at the population level," Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard University said in a Newsweek article. "This level of increase can have important public health implications for health outcomes such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol."

Treating health conditions related to obesity accounts for about 5% to 7% of annual health costs, or around $100 billion. People who are obese also have a lower quality of life than people who are not obese, the poll found.