The Cost of Inaction on Physical Inactivity to Healthcare Systems

Background: Physical inactivity (PI) is an important modifiable risk factor for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and mental health conditions. Estimating the public healthcare costs associated with these diseases due to PI will help policymakers to prioritise investment in policy actions to promote and enable more people to be more active.

Methods: We used a population attributable fraction (PAF) formula to estimate the direct public healthcare costs of NCDs and mental health conditions for a 11-year period (2020 to 2030). We used the most recent health and economic data evidence available for 194 countries.

Results: Almost 500 million new cases of preventable major NCDs would occur globally, with direct health care costs of INT$ 520 billion, by 2030 if the current prevalence of PI does not change. The global cost of inaction on PI would reach approximately INT$ 47·6 billion per year. Although 74% of new cases of NCDs would occur in LMICs, high-income countries would bear a larger proportion of the economic costs (63%). The cost of treatment and management of NCDs varied, such that, although dementia accounted for only 3% of these preventable NCDs, it corresponded to 22% of all costs; type 2 diabetes and cancers, accounted for 2% and 1% of these preventable cases, but 9% and 15% of all costs, respectively.

Findings: This health and economic burden of PI is avoidable. Further investments in and implementation of known and effective policy interventions will support countries to reach the Sustainable Development Goal of reduction of NCD mortality by 2030.