Information and communications technologies have improved living standards around the world. But the increased amount of time that people devote to using computers, watching TV and playing video games- so-called "screen time" -is a significant factor in the global rise of obesity.
In Waistlines of the World: the Effect of Information and Communications Technology on Obesity, Institute researchers establish a direct connection between spikes in technology adoption and subsequent increases in obesity rates. The report charts the dramatic rise in obesity in 27 OECD countries.
The human and economic cost for the increasing weight of the world is high. Obesity in particular, and being overweight in general , are triggers for disability and many chronic diseases, with obesity being the fifth leading cause of death worldwide. In the United States, the medical-cost burden due to obesity climbed to 9.1 percent of annual medical spending in 2006, from 6.5 percent in 1998.
The causes for the obesity bulge are various, but the Milken Institute researchers chart the effect that the worldwide transition toward an information-based economy has had on work habits and lifestyle.
The good news? The study also found that in countries with high ICT investment rates, a 1 percent increase in the number of physically active people can prevent a 0.2 percent rise in obesity. The report makes recommendations for strategic solutions, and provides information about a number of programs and policies that governments, corporations, and non-profit groups around the world have pioneered to keep obesity in check.