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Obesity Financial Toll on American Lives Found in First Study

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

In a first ever study, researchers have estimated the individual cost of obesity in the United States. The financial burden of obesity to Americans was estimated using direct and indirect measures that include direct and indirect costs to obese individuals.

The findings come from Avi Dor, Professor and Director of Health Economics Program at The George Washington University and colleagues who found significant differences in obesity related cost between men and women.

For women, the individual annual price tag associated with obesity - defined as BMI greater than 30 - was estimated at $4879 - for men, the annual price tag was calculated at $2646. When the researchers included lost life, the price tag jumped to $8,365 for women and $6,518 for men. The cost to women is significantly higher from disability, lost wages and absenteeism, compared to men.

Obesity Accounts for 10% of Annual Health Costs in US

Current estimates show health cost linked to obesity accounts for almost 10 percent of expenditure in America, but the researchers say their findings show the burden may be even more substantial

Dr. Dor explains, "Existing literature provides information on health- and work-related costs, but with the exception of fuel costs, no published academic research offers insight into consumer-related costs, such as clothing, air travel, automobile size or furniture. Anecdotal evidence suggests these costs could be significant."

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Christine Ferguson, J.D., Professor of Health Policy says, “Being able to quantify the individual’s economic burden of excess weight may give new urgency to public policy discussions regarding solutions for the obesity epidemic.”

Joe Nadglowski, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Obesity Action Coalition, points out the need for aggressive intervention to prevent and treat the obesity epidemic that affects 93 million Americans. Excess weight takes a toll on individual health and quality of life. The new study highlights the financial impact that is expected to escalate by 2030 and account for 16 to 18 percent of US healthcare spending.

Other findings from the study show the difference between health spending associated with normal weight, overweight, moderately obese, and morbidly obese individuals. Compared to overweight individuals, cost of health care for morbidly obese individuals is eight times higher. Morbid obesity health spending is $2845 higher per year compared to normal weight individuals.

Key findings from the study show obesity costs more than being overweight for men. The price of obesity, compared to being overweight, is 15 percent higher, regardless of gender or employment status. Consumer related costs for are likely to make the findings even more startling. Higher BMI comes with an incrementally higher price tag, primarily from direct medical costs.

Men who are morbidly obese die 5.2 years sooner and women cut 4.3 years off their lives. The new findings show obesity comes with a startling price tag for Americans.

Department of Health Policy: GWUMC



I'm surprised the research did not include food. Obese people spend more on food, because we eat more. I know, I am one. When I am eating healthy portions, my food bill goes down dramatically.