Contrary to popular belief, the rich is not necessarily healthier than the poor. Indeed, the rich may have access to higher quality healthcare and medical assistance, but they also have the privilege of enjoying fine dining rich in fat and cholesterol.
Unlike most other countries where the wealthy strive to maintain a fit and even thin figure, the opposite is true for those in China. A survey performed by a professor at the Chinese Medical Doctor Association shows that China’s obesity rate in the last 30 years has skyrocketed 158%. This is extremely alarming, and especially so in large urban cities such as Shanghai and Beijing, where fast food joints like McDonalds and KFC were fighting to set up shop, instead of appearing in stages like it did for the U.S or Europe.
As long as China continues progressing into the next stages of globalization and opening up a larger portion of its market to foreign manufacturers, there will only be more openings of not only fast food chains, but high-end eateries as well. On the other end of the scale, the wealthy also tend to indulge in expensive food that naturally has higher contents of oil, sugar, and sodium. Particularly around popular holidays like Chinese New Year’s or Moon Festival, food becomes the focal point to represent one’s wealth and status. Thus, meat of the best quality and of various kinds and cuts are sure to be consumed.
There is one thing I have to add, however—having lived for some period in Taiwan and China myself, I can speak for the Chinese when I say that exercise is not as common a hobby as it is in the U.S. The concept of exercise has traditionally been thought of as a form of art and discipline, such as martial arts, table tennis (ping pong), and chess. In comparison, running and yoga are both really big in the U.S., while in China the shared attitude toward exercising for the purposes of losing weight or becoming toned is not as widespread.
It will definitely be interesting to observe how China responds to its rising cases of heart disease, diabetes, and the likes. Aside from perhaps promoting diet products and weight loss camps, I see a large untapped market for health foods, particularly organic food. As is known in the U.S., retailers like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are all a little more costly than Target or Kroger’s. But if the wealthy care about preserving and enjoying their wealth, then they should also care enough to protect their health in order to do so. In the long run, the costs of eating healthy on a daily basis should provide enough incentive to be able to splurge on occasions without incurring serious health repercussions.