NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

OBESITY BLAMED FOR INCREASES IN MEDICAL SPENDING

November 5, 2004

Recent studies have estimated that health care spending is approximately 36 percent higher among obese adults under age 65 than for those with normal weight, according to Kenneth E. Thorpe, Curtis S. Florence and David H. Howard, in a report published in Health Affairs.

The authors used nationally representative data from 1987 to 2001 to estimate the share of spending growth attributable to changes in obesity and relative per capita spending among obese people. They found:

  • Both the rising prevalence of obesity and higher relative per capita spending among obese Americans accounted for 27 percent of the growth in real per capita spending between 1987 and 2001.
  • During this period, the prevalence of obesity increased by 10.3 percentage points, or nearly 24 percent of the adult population.
  • The rise in obesity contributed to large spending increases for the three medical conditions examined (diabetes, hyperlipidemia, and heart disease) for the civilian and noninstitutionalized population.

Not surprisingly, say the researchers, obesity is associated with higher rates of mortality, even among those without other risk factors such as smoking or a previous medical condition. Similar to previous estimates, the results indicate that costs incurred by the obese were 37 percent higher than costs for those with normal weight in 2001.

Moreover, they say, growth in obesity and spending on obese people accounted for 27 percent of adjusted growth in inflation-adjusted per capita health care spending between 1987 and 2001.

According to the authors, these results suggest that future cost containment efforts need to attack the rising prevalence and costs of obesity head on. This will require a focus on developing effective interventions to promote weight loss among obese people.

Source: Kenneth E. Thorpe, Curtis S. Florence and David H. Howard, "The Impact of Obesity on Rising Medical Spending," Health Affairs, October 20, 2004.

For text http://content.healthaffairs.org/cgi/content/full/hlthaff.w4.480/DC1

 

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