The economic benefits of improving people’s physical activity levels
Nov 6, 2019
A study to examine the economic benefits of getting people to be more physically active by using a multi-country computational general equilibrium (CGE) macroeconomic model. The study finds that improving physical activity levels at the population levels is associated with global GDP gains over the next thirty years.
An international analysis
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It is estimated that about 30 per cent of the global population is considered to be physically inactive. Such inactivity is of high concern when the physical and mental health benefits of physical activity are well established, and that research shows that regular physical activity is associated with lower onset rates of a range of disease conditions. Research also illuminates the stark fact that physical inactivity is associated with more than 5 million deaths every year. With the global rates of physical activity diminishing, and the associated costs to humankind increasing as a result, the insidious and dangerous nature of such global inactivity is becoming increasingly exposed.
In recognition of this, and in order to explore how these high levels of physical inactivity drive cost in economies, the Vitality Group asked RAND Europe to conduct an economic analysis of the potential economic benefits associated with getting people to be more physically active. Using a multi-country computable general equilibrium (CGE) macroeconomic model, RAND Europe examined the potential global implications of insufficient physical activity and changes of physical activity levels at the population level across different countries. The overarching aim of the study was to explore the main economic costs of physical inactivity and to identify the key benefits to improving activity rates. By presenting this data via the three modelled scenarios, the consequence of higher inactivity compared to improved activity rates may be better understood.
The findings suggest that making people physically more active is associated with economic benefits. Under three different physical activity improvement scenarios, it is estimated that by 2025, the global GDP could be between US$138 billion — US$338 billion higher with increased activity, compared to current physical activity levels. The economic benefits are increasing over time and by 2050 the estimated increase could be nearer to between US$314 billion and US$760 billion. A breakdown of the GDP gains suggests that reduced presenteeism drives the highest proportion of economic gain as a result of reducing physical inactivity — about 70 per cent — with reduced mortality and reduced sickness absence responsible for only about 30 percent of the overall GDP gains projected.
Furthermore, the findings suggest that billions of dollars in global healthcare expenditure could be saved by improving physical activity rates. Overall the models estimate that between US$8.7 billion - US$11.2 billion in present global healthcare expenditure could be saved by making people physically more active, with those savings rising to between US$16 billion and US$20.6 billion by 2050.
Background on physical activity: Definitions, measurement, guidelines and the prevalence of physical inactivity
The benefits of physical activity: Associations with health, well-being and workplace performance
Quantifying the economic benefits of a more physically active population
What works in getting people to be more physically active?
Quantifying the associations between physical activity and a range of health, well-being and workplace performance outcomes
The association between physical inactivity and elevated mortality risk
Computing country-specific physical activity distributions and calculating potential healthcare expenditure savings for different physical activity improvement scenarios
A cohort-component model for population projections
Description of the dynamic computational general equilibrium (CGE) model
The research described in this report was commissioned by the Vitality Group, part of Discovery Limited and conducted by RAND Europe.
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