With healthcare costs currently a volatile political and economic topic, surprisingly few people are arguing that perhaps some of the locus of the healthcare problem is not just the large number of aging Americans or expensive though perhaps unnecessary treatments, but rather the sedentary American lifestyle. One side of the problem is of course that the low-income part of the demographic distribution finds it difficult to find the information necessary to compute the costs and benefits of different lifestyle choices; on the other hand, it’s hard to believe that all lifestyle choices are difficult to evaluate. For instance, I regularly see people taking the elevator to go up or down ONE floor; presumably people think the marginal costs of negotiating stairs exceed the marginal benefits of exercise. Given the long-term health costs of obesity, you’d think that more people would decide to walk a little more when they have a low-cost option to do so.
How much money would the country save on healthcare if Americans walked a mile more a week? Do people who think the same way I do have an implicit fear of voicing this advocacy because they’re afraid of offending overweight people? Perhaps we should be more vocal; after all, one of the ways we can think of universal or government-sponsored healthcare is that it is a transfer of wealth from healthy people to sick people.
Update: Why Southerners are so Fat (Time).