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Moving from global obesity towards healthy living

Whilst it was already on our radar screens, the trend towards healthy living has become more pronounced in the past year. Studies have found that we are at higher risk of suffering badly from a coronavirus infection if we are e.g. overweight. Learn more about this pressing issue and five key areas in which we believe companies are set to benefit from individuals moving towards taking better care of themselves.




Growing incidence and costs of obesity worldwide
The number of overweight people, according to the WHO, is projected to rise to 4.2 billion by 2030 (50 per cent of the world’s population) and even further to 6 billion by 2050 (over 60 per cent). There are nearly 700 million overweight people worldwide, which would hypothetically make up the world’s demographically third-largest country after China and India. Nevertheless, when attention shifts to the national share of obesity, it has been observed that more than a quarter of the population in countries across Oceania, North America, Europe and Latin America are obese.

The socio-economic impact of an overweight population will remain significant. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), it has been estimated that three million people between the age of 30 and 70 will lose their lives prematurely every year due to health complications relating to obesity over the next three decades. People, who are overweight, are also more likely to require more than twice as many prescriptions compared to people with a healthy weight.

For instance, overweight will be responsible for 70 per cent of all treatment costs for diabetes, 23 per cent of treatment costs for cardiovascular diseases, and nine per cent for cancers across OECD countries. On a country level, a recent study published by the OECD has revealed that the 52 countries under examination will spend a total of nearly USD 425 billion on healthcare services associated with overweight or obesity per annum between 2020 and 2050. The United States is expected to spend the most amongst the 52 countries on obesity and overweight issues, at over 14 per cent of its national health budget.

Covid-19: the link to obesity
Scientific communities across the world have been chronicling the impact of Covid-19 on overweight patients since the beginning of the global public health crisis. According to a recent report published by the World Obesity Federation, the majority of Covid-19 cases have occurred in countries with a greater share of overweight citizens. Given that 90 per cent of the over three million coronavirus-related deaths worldwide took place in lands with high levels of obesity, the UK-based international organisation concludes that there is a stark correlation between Covid-19 mortality and obesity rates.

For instance, it has been observed that nine out of ten Covid-19-related deaths occurred in countries with high obesity levels. In countries where more than half of their population are overweight, mortality rates are even ten times higher than in nations with fewer overweight citizens. A case in point: the US has over 1,800 Covid-19 deaths per 100,000 of the population (along with an obesity rate of over 40 per cent nationwide). These figures are significantly higher than Japan’s and South Korea’s mortality rates of around 110 and 35, respectively, for every 100,000 inhabitants, where only four per cent of their citizens are obese.

More studies are still required to explore the link between obesity and Covid-19.

Dr. Damien Ng, Next Generation Research Analyst

It is also to be noted that Covid-19 patients who are overweight or obese, are more likely to experience a more severe infection than leaner patients, and are thus more susceptible to hospitalisation, particularly in intensive-care units. According to a recent research study carried out by the University of Queensland and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, which examined 7,000 patients across 11 countries, it was observed that patients with obesity were 73 per cent more likely to need invasive respiratory support than patients within the healthy weight range.

How to invest in the healthy living trend
The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has ushered in an era of heightened health awareness in reducing risk factors while augmenting the positive drivers of both physical and mental health alike. Given the diverse products and services available for the maintenance of healthy living, we see nutrition, physical activity, beauty, mental support and healthcare as promising areas to invest.

  • Nutrition - “You are what you eat.” We are all familiar with this expression and in this social media age, the growing awareness of the importance of good nutrition is inescapable. The long-term prospects for this segment are bright, especially for those companies focused on fresh fruit and vegetables, organic food and drinks, and health supplements.
  • Physical activity - Of course, it is not enough to just eat and drink well, we need to live well too and that means moving. We had to become more inventive during lockdown when many gyms were closed. Exercise and particularly running have seen something of a renaissance in the past 12 months. Companies producing athletic footwear, sports clothing, and wearable technology are all wellplaced to benefit.
  • Beauty and personal care - Looking good has such a psychological impact on our well-being that we cannot ignore its significance. The propensity to opt for cosmetic surgery has jumped dramatically in the last decade, but such interventions are not available to all. Lipstick, however, is. We believe that the beauty market is set for greater future growth, especially with the current generation’s enormous emphasis on image and self-confidence.
  • Healthcare - To avoid poor health, the focus for many medcare companies is preventing health issues developing in the first place, and if they cannot, then at least providing rapid diagnoses/treatments where possible. We see the segment of healthcare associated with disease prevention as being well positioned for growth now.
  • Mental wellbeing - An increase in levels of emotional stress during the pandemic, not to mention the fact that many people globally were forced to work from home, saw pet ownership truly take off. Pets offer valuable companionship to the entire family, helping to boost mental health and relieve depression. And where there are pets, there are products to cater for their needs – food, treats, grooming, insurance and veterinary care are all areas set to benefit from this rising trend.

Would you like to know more about thematic investing and which megatrends should be reflected in your portfolio?

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