The recent Institute of Economic Affairs research into obesity draws an interesting – if potentially controversial – conclusion. Writing in a post on the Public Service Europe site, the author of the IEA’s paper “Fat taxes and other interventions won’t cure obesity” states that “there is some evidence that the obese have shorter life expectancies and therefore are less likely to require the even greater long term costs of geriatric care”. The point being that in the wider scheme of things, obese people are less of a strain on the NHS than orthodox wisdom.

The author, barrie Craven, concludes: “The private market is already responding to the demands of people wishing to lose weight. If there is a role for governments in this area, it should be limited to promoting health information campaigns”.

Regardless of whether a proposed ‘fat tax’ would work – and in these uncertain economic times, it would be harder to predict than usual – an important point is raised in the article – namely that as a nation, we face a future where one of the health service’s biggest concerns will be geriatric care.

By 2030 its estimated that about half the UK population will be aged over 50 – and half will also be obese. It doesn’t take much arithmetic to calculate that a decade and a half down the line, there will be record numbers of OAPs – and, no doubt, record numbers of the various medical problems that are attendant with that age group.

While 2045 is still a long way off  (and who knows what giant leaps medical science will have performed in the interim) it still pays to keep an eye on the future. Which is why the recent news regarding calls for a “minister for older people” post within the government seem all the more timely.

After  all, surely if there are greater numbers of older people, then as a group they will have a significant potential voting power. It makes sense that there should be a dedicated ministerial post looking after their interests.

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