NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 11, 2008

A new study in the journal "Obesity" adds to mounting evidence that obese people have significantly higher medical costs, says USA Today. 

For the study, Eric Finkelstein, an economist with RTI International, analyzed national data on medical expenditures and life expectancy.  He found that the greater the weight, the higher the medical costs; and although obese people have shorter life spans, they still have much higher lifetime medical costs, says USA Today.

For example:

  • About one-third of people living in the United States are obese, which puts them at an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, some types of cancer and other diseases.
  • Obese twentysomethings -- those who are 30 or more pounds overweight -- will have lifetime medical bills that are $5,000 to $21,000 higher than their normal-weight peers.
  • Extremely obese young adults -- 70 or more pounds overweight -- will incur $15,000 to $29,000 more in lifetime medical expenditures than their healthy-weight peers.

According to Finkelstein:

  • Medical expenditures are much greater in obese white women than obese black women, possibly because white women tend to use more health services at every weight.
  • Prior research shows that obese people miss more days of work and have a lower quality of life.

Source: Nanci Hellmich, "Obese Have Heftier Medical Bills Despite Shortened Lives," USA Today, June 10, 2008.

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