Obesity has long been known to bring added health costs for individuals, but now a new study examines the financial costs and find that women pay a higher price than men. The study, released this week, says the individual cost of being obese is $4,879 and $2,646 for women and men respectively. Adding the value of lost life to these annual costs produces even more dramatic results: $8,365 and $6,518 annually for women and men, respectively.
The analysis demonstrates costs are nine times higher for women and six times higher for men who are obese, which is defined as an individual with a Body Mass Index (BMI) more than 30, than for an overweight person, which is defined as someone with a BMI between 25-29. The findings also reveal a significant difference between the impact of obesity on men and women when it comes to job-related costs, including lost wages, absenteeism and disability.
The report, the first done on the individual costs of obesity for Americans, was conducted by the The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services’ Department of Health Policy in Washington, D.C. Researchers used a series of measures including indirect costs and lost productivity as well as direct costs such as obesity-related medical expenditures, to estimate the price tag of obesity at the individual level.
The report even suggests that the estimates may understate total costs, stating, “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.”
The key findings shed new light on recent statistics on the annual health care costs associated with the obesity epidemic. Health care costs are now estimated at $147 billion annually, representing nearly 10 percent of all U.S. medical expenses. By 2030, the health care costs attributable to the overweight and obese could account for up to 16 to 18 percent of total U.S. health care costs.