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Actuary claims inflated government health figures

23 November 2011 - 5:17pm

A leading actuary has criticised the federal government for basing its spending decisions on reportedly inflated figures.

According to Geoff Dunsford, three public health issues in particular have been reported on government websites and press releases as being higher than what he believes.

"The numbers are all over the place," Mr Dunsford wrote in the September edition of Actuary Australia.

Mr Dunsford believes costs relating to obesity, smoking and mental health are flawed, according to Fairfax Media - with intangible personal and so-called "burdens of disease" costs included in the information provided by the government and institutions.

In particular, the price of obesity - cited as costing $58.2 billion a year - was skewed by the "non-financial" data to make obesity seem more costly to the taxpayer.

The actuary estimates that 85 per cent - almost $50 billion - of the total figure appeared "at least superficially" when the "years of life lost through disability and premature death" were added to the healthcare and loss of income costs of obesity.

Likewise, Mr Dunsford claims that some $19.5 billion of the reported $31.5 billion cost of smoking "psychological costs of premature death borne by the smoker and others."