We are told loudly and often that the U.S., in fact much of the world, is becoming more and more unhealthy. We are told that this will impact the quality of our lives, the length of our lives and the quality and length of our potential children's lives, too. What we are told far less frequently is that the damage done by poor health is not limited just to the individual, but reverberates out into society as well.
Obesity is Contagious
It seems like an absurd claim on the surface, but there is a lot of very good scientific evidence to back up the idea that obesity is contagious. And not just obesity either. Smoking, drinking and many other bad habits are socially contagious as well. Those who allow themselves to become unhealthy, or practice these habits which lead to poor health, help to further spread that poor health, leading to an even more unhealthy society.
Another of the negative effects of poor health on society is the cost that it incurs. More and more of many government budgets are being swallowed up by health care costs, and while people seem happy to talk about lowering or raising a countries' health care budget, few people seem interested in addressing the root problem, which is an increasingly unhealthy society. Poor health epidemics lead to more people being dependent on government health care, which means higher taxes and less money going to other deserving government programs.
Poor health can also be passed onto the next generation, which compounds the problem through the high cost of dealing with it. A mother's or even father's diabetes, for instance, can have many negative effects on a fetus — which can cause problems in childhood and beyond. These childhood health problems then come to represent dependence on health care at a younger age, a diminished quality of life and potentially a shorter life as well.
The collective poor health of a society is also, it must be said, a perception problem. The U.S. is, for example, well known as having a serious obesity problem. Foreigners and U.S. citizens alike use this fact as a way to criticize the U.S. Skilled, desirable foreigners looking to potentially immigrate to the U.S. might reconsider knowing that poor health is so prevalent, and could take their valuable skills and expertise elsewhere. A perception of general poor health is, for many, grounds to dismiss or think less of a society as a whole.