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Body Mass Index – A Slogan for Today's Generation?


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With winter fast receding for another year, the approaching summer brings with it the promise of longer evenings, warm sunshine and an opportunity for the kids to escape the confines of the home and emerge to enjoy playing outside during the long summer nights.

However, with the advances in digital entertainment and coupled with the fears faced by parents in letting their children play outside unsupervised, many youngsters will spend the coming evenings in front of the television or video games console rather than running amok outside with their friends. This alarming reluctance to venture outdoors to play tag, hide and seek, cowboys and Indians or the current game of choice is being widely attributed to the rising tide of obesity in our youngsters.

So far this year, the media have highlighted this topic by reporting on health risks involved in being overweight – not just in children, but also in adults. Individuals who are classed as obese have a much higher chance of developing life changing diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and osteoarthritis, to name just a few. Also, from the opposite end of the range, these obesity reports are coupled with the recent ‘size zero’ outcry that has inundated our celebrity-obsessed culture. However, both extremes court numerous health risks and the current buzzword to assess whether you are ‘too skinny’ or ‘too fat’ is BMI – Body Mass Index.

BMI looks at the ratio between your weight and height to assess what your body weight should be. The guide can then be used to establish whether an individual is of ‘normal’ weight or not; but there have been numerous debates as to whether BMI is an accurate assessment of health relating to weight as not everyone can agree on the point when someone becomes ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’. With confusion about what you should eat or how much you should weigh, are we becoming a society obsessed with image or the possibility of a health crisis when our indulgencies finally catch up with us?

For providers of healthcare, these life style trends can cause concern. If the NHS is struggling to cope with the illnesses of an active generation, how will it cope with the consequences of the current sedentary generation? Some private medical insurance providers have jumped on the bandwagon and reward those members who lead a healthy life style or have a ‘normal’ BMI by offering a discount on their premiums. Alternatively, loadings can occur if your life style is not so healthy or your BMI a little higher than necessary.

But if the experts can’t agree on what your BMI should be how can your private medical insurance provider be so certain? Health-on-Line, for example have recognised this confusion and have removed the questions relating to height and weight from their application process. Just tell them your age and what you wish to be covered for and you will receive a competitive quote for the same amount whether you are large or small.

Andrew Regan is an online, freelance journalist.


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