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"Obesity cheaper to treat..." in health headlines today

By February 5, 2008 - 3:29pm
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One health-related headline today suggests that obesity or being a smoker "saves money" compared to being "thin and healthy". Of course, this type of headline makes you scratch your head in disbelief, and read the article.

As I read the article, I was disappointed that the headline is extremely misleading. A direct quote from the article (complete reference at end of my post), "The researchers found that from age 20 to 56, obese people racked up the most expensive health costs. But because both the smokers and the obese people died sooner than the healthy group, it cost less to treat them in the long run."

This is perplexing to me, as health-related "news" continues to perpetuate misleading information. Tell me if I'm reading this incorrectly, but instead of the study comparing health care costs of obesity and smoking to healthy/thin people, they are actually saying that since obese people and smokers die earlier, that was in actually being compared are the health care costs of those "healthy/thin" people who are *living* to those "obese or smoking" people who are *not living*.

What if there is better health care for people who are obese or smoke...resulting in a longer lifespan for these individuals...then, does this study becomes irrelevant? How does this information help those of us who are smokers, who are obese, or who are thin?

It reminds me of the tobacco industry's infamous "grave defense" back in the 80's, saying that they are being a good corporate citizen by providing individuals with tobacco products because they are SAVING health care costs since their tobacco users DIE EARLIER, thus saving long-term health care costs.

I'm surprised that this article was written, about this one particular study. Love to hear your thoughts on this potentially controversial article: do you think this article was sensationalizing one particular study, or do you find that there is some important information to be extracted?

You may view the article online:
"Fat People Cheaper to Treat, Study Says"
The Associated Press
Tuesday, February 5, 2008; 2:58 AM

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HERWriter Guide

I heard this on the radio. It's a Dutch study that I laughingly told my husband was typical...the Dutch are always out to save a buck! He's from Holland so I can get away with that!

If you listen to the Dutch researcher, he did laugh a little about the interviewer's incredulity that they'd publish a study like this. Obviously no-one wants to encourage people to smoke or eat themselves into an early death.

The study makes sense, in a way, because obviously we need more money in order to live longer. I wondered - we needed to conduct a study on this? Isn't this common sense? It's why we save for retirement, after all.

The interviewer asked about the lack of productivity of unhealthy smokers and obese people and the researcher acknowledged that was 'beyond the scope' of this study.

This study was a fiscal study on human longevity. It was not a traditional health study, as such.

Here is the actual interview if anyone would like to listen -


February 8, 2008 - 1:24pm

Apparently that topic made it to the airwaves as well ...

Another aspect of the 'grave defense' is that in addition to SAVING health care costs, one expert from that era said that tobacco companies were generating additional revenue for municipalities through sales taxes or so the argument goes.

The article probably was somewhat sensationalized, however any thing that gets people like us thinking and analyzing information to probe deeper can't be too bad.

February 6, 2008 - 9:57am
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