Fat China: How Expanding Waistlines Are Changing a Nation
China's economy has boomed, but a potentially disastrous side effect - along with pollution and a growing income gap between urban and rural regions - is the effects obesity will have on the country's fragile healthcare system. Today's overweight in China can look to a mixed future of bright economic hopes for their country, and poor and deteriorating health for themselves. From a situation 20 years ago when diets were limited by food availability, and famine was still a recent memory, China's urban centres have seen alarmingly rising rates of obesity. Throughout the country an estimated 200 million people out of a total population of around 1.3 billion were overweight (over 15%).
Why is this issue so important? Taking into account that the recent period of stable world economic growth has in large part been driven by the availability of cheap labour in China, which produces much of the goods that keep the retail tills ringing elsewhere in the world, the issue of China's rising obesity is an issue of potentially global economic significance. Consider a scenario just a few years down the line, where there are so many overweight urban Chinese, suffering from obesity-related illness, that the government, in order to pay for increased healthcare treatments, has to raise the levels of income and other tax to pay for this huge and continual expense.