Study Estimates Obesity-Related Costs Could Reach $1.1T
Costs for the 12.7 million obese children living in the U.S. could reach $1.1 trillion over their lifetimes if they remain obese through adulthood, according to a study released Tuesday by the Brookings Center for Social Dynamics and Policy, Modern Healthcare reports.
The study focused on the costs of obesity and ways to reduce those costs, particularly through obesity prevention and treatments for children (Robeznieks, Modern Healthcare, 5/13). Researchers used modeling software to conduct lifelong cost projections for two hypothetical groups -- an obese group and a non-obese group -- of 1,000 U.S. residents ages 20 to 24 (Madden, Washington Times, 5/13).
The research found that the obesity rate among U.S. adults increased from about 10% in the 1990s to 35% in 2010, reaching 78.6 million obese adults. During the same period, the obesity rate among U.S. children increased from 5% to 17%.
According to the study, obese adults between ages 25 to 85 accumulate $92,235 in average lifetime costs, including those related to:
- Decreased taxes because of lower incomes;
- Disability claims;
- Lost productivity;
- Medical care; and
- Social Security disability insurance.
Further, William Dietz of George Washington University's Milken Institute of Public Health said the study found that costs also stem from bias toward and stigmatization of obesity. For example, Dietz noted that fewer obese students are accepted to college, which can result in lower lifetime incomes (Modern Healthcare, 5/13).
According to analysts, the estimated average costs are three times higher than those projected in any other study on the issue so far. The higher estimates spur from the study's inclusion of "absenteeism" and "presenteeism," which account for how often obese adults miss work and their decreased productivity while at work, respectively (Washington Times, 5/13).
Brookings research associate Matthew Kasman, who presented the findings, said, "Even if it weren't morally incumbent on us to care about the life and health of our fellow citizens, our research indicates that we have a clear economic incentive to do so" (Modern Healthcare, 5/13). Further, he noted that the study likely underestimates actual obesity-related costs since it did not account for factors such as "fuel consumption, military readiness, life insurance and workers' compensation" (Washington Times, 5/13).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.