Obesity Has a Price
As if the toll on health and beauty wasn't reason enough to lose weight, let’s not forget about the pocketbook. On average, “obese people spend $1400 more a year on health care compared to someone of normal weight,” says Eric Finkelstein, the foremost authority on the economics of obesity in the United States. And whether you, your employer, or the government picks up the tab, obesity is running up the health care bill.
Obesity starts when the BMI is 30 or more. For instance, a 5'5" tall person enters the overweight range at 150 pounds and the obese range at 180 pounds. The New York Times reports that, in 2009, 34 percent of American adults were obese. At last count in 2006 - when obesity rates were lower - more than 72 million U.S. adults were labeled as "obese".
The Money Trail
Statically speaking, medical complications, like diabetes, heart disease, cancers and others - increase sharply at BMI 30, and they all work together to drive up costs. The payments go to doctor visits, lab work, diagnostic tests, prescription medications, hospital stays, the various therapies, and everything else that is a direct cost of the condition. And there are the indirect costs: lost wages and productivity due to sickness and long-term disability. It adds up to $1429 more a year per obese person, which means certain individuals pay a lot more.
As they say where I come from, “Not for nuttin' but” wouldn't we put a dent in the health care debt just by losing weight? I'm no Dr. Finkelstein but let's do the math:
If there are 72,000,000 obese adults and each one saves $1,429 by losing weight, then that produces a savings of $102,888,000,000 (almost $103 billion) - or 70 percent of the money spent on obesity-related health problems. Pretty nifty savings for something we already want.
If you are in the obese category, you can look forward to pocketing $1400 a year just by losing weight. For the society, the combined savings could take a bite out of the health care debt. But just so you know, obesity-related health conditions account for only 9.1 percent of the $4.3 trillion dollars spent on health care last year.
Another reason to take good care of yourself.
Have you saved money by losing weight?
Note: From an economists perspective, correcting obesity might not be best for the economy. We need those corporate profits from the sale of convenience foods and labor-saving devices. Eric Finkelstein explains how it works in his book, The Fattening of America: How The Economy Makes Us Fat, If It Matters, and What To Do About It.