Health Care Costs Higher For Healthy Individuals

Armen Hareyan's picture

Health Care Costs

Lifetime health care costsfor obese individuals and smokers are lower than those for healthy individualswho live years longer, according to a study Monday on the Web site of the PublicLibrary of Science Medicine, the AP/Boston Globe reports. For the study, led byeconomist Pieter van Baal of the National Institute of Public Health and theEnvironment in the Netherlands andsponsored by the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare andSport, researchersdeveloped a model to predict lifetime health care costs for 1,000 individualsin each of three groups -- obese individuals, smokers and healthy individuals.Researchers based the model on "cost of illness" data and diseaseprevalence in the Netherlandsin 2003.

Obese individuals had the highest health care costs from age 20 to 56, andobese individuals and smokers had a higher rate of heart disease than healthyindividuals, the study found. However, the study found that obese individualsand smokers had lower lifetime health care costs than healthy individualsbecause they died earlier.


On average, healthy individuals lived 84 years, compared with 80 years forobese individuals and 77 years for smokers, the study found. Healthyindividuals on average had lifetime health care costs of $417,000, comparedwith $371,000 for obese individuals and $326,000 for smokers, according to thestudy.


According to van Baal, thestudy indicates that government efforts to prevent obesity and smoking can leadto higher health care costs in the long term. He said, "Lung cancer is acheap disease to treat because people don't survive very long. But if they areold enough to get Alzheimer's one day, they may survive longer and costmore." He said that, although researchers do not recommend that "governmentsstop trying to prevent obesity" and smoking, they should undertake suchefforts to improve the health of residents, rather than to reduce health carecosts (Cheng, AP/Boston Globe, 2/4).

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