Being obese does not only pose a potential health risk, there is also a cost involved – being obese costs money, say researchers from George Washington University in a new report. They found that obesity costs the average female $4,879 and male $2,646 annually in lost productivity, employee sick days, and other costs. It is well known that obese individuals have overall higher medical bills, but the authors say that this is only a part of the economic impact.

If a person’s bodyweight is at least 20% higher than it should be, he or she is considered obese. If your Body Mass Index (BMI) is between 25 and 29.9 you are considered overweight. If your BMI is 30 or over you are considered obese.

Being overweight is more expensive than having normal bodyweight, but it is cheaper than being obese, the authors say. Being overweight costs $524 for females and $432 for males each year, according to the report which analyzed previously published studies.

“A Heavy Burden: The Individual Costs of Being Overweight and Obese in the United States,” was authored by Avi Dor, Professor and Director of Health Economics Program at The George Washington University, and team.

When the researchers added the value of lost life to the annual costs of being obese, the toll was even bigger:

  • $8,365 for women
  • $6,518 for men

The investigators say that their findings revealed a considerable difference between the impact of obesity on males and females regarding job-related costs, including lost income, disability and absenteeism.

Total costs may be higher than their latest estimates, the researchers say.

Dr. Dor wrote:

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.

Christine Ferguson, J.D., Professor of Health Policy, George Washington University, said:

These data, coupled with the widely-reported costs of obesity to society, continue to highlight the enormous overall financial impact of this epidemic. 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.”

The investigators write that almost 10% of current American medical costs are due to obesity, about $147 billion per year. If current trends continue, obesity will represent between 16% and 18% of total US health care costs.

Joe Nadglowski, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Obesity Action Coalition, said:

The data demonstrate that an individual affected by obesity faces not only high medical-related costs, but also higher non-medical costs, including lost wages due to disability and premature mortality. Given the increasing obesity rates, this report underscores the critical need for a new and more aggressive approach to obesity that considers both prevention and treatment for those 93 million Americans who are already obese.”

The BMI is a statistical measurement derived from your height and weight. Although it is considered to be a useful way to estimate healthy body weight, it does not measure the percentage of body fat. The BMI measurement can sometimes be misleading – a muscleman may have a high BMI but have much less fat than an unfit person whose BMI is lower. However, in general, the BMI measurement can be a useful indicator for the ‘average person’.

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Click here to read about obesity in more detail.
Click here to read an interesting related article: What is my ideal weight?

“A Heavy Burden: The Individual Costs of Being Overweight and Obese in the United States”
Avi Dor, Professor et al


Written by Christian Nordqvist