Cost Of Obesity In The U.S.By LAURA MECKLER - Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Obesity is costing not
only American lives, but dollars too. A study tallies that $93 billion per year
goes to treat health problems of people who are overweight. (For the current
total, please visit the
National Center for Chronic Disease
Prevention and Health Promotion)
About half that tab is picked up by the
government through Medicare, which provides care to the elderly, and Medicaid,
which serves the poor.
Overall, spending attributed to excessive
weight made up 9 percent of all medical spending in 1998, researchers reported
Wednesday on the Web site of the journal Health Affairs.
They arrived at the figure by comparing the
medical expenses of adults who are not overweight with the expenses of those
similar in most ways but who were overweight or obese .
The difference in spending on people who are
overweight and those of normal weight were, for the most part, not
statistically significant by themselves. But major differences appeared for
those who were obese: The average increase in spending over a person of normal
weight was $732 per year - 37.4 percent more.
Altogether, medical spending attributable to
extra weight totaled $78.5 billion in 1998, or $92.6 billion in 2002,
The financial burden now rivals that
attributable to smoking, the authors say, arguing that government and health
insurance companies should offer incentives to help people lose weight.
"Although some insurers subsidize
memberships to health clubs to promote physical activity, most do not include
incentives to encourage weight loss," wrote authors Eric Finkelstein and Ian
Fiebelkorn of RTI International in North Carolina and Guijing Wang of the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
The study examined a representative sample
of 9,867 adults ages 19 and older, with data from the 1998 Medical Expenditure
Panel Survey and the 1996 and 1997 National Health Interview Surveys. The
research was paid for by the CDC.
Weight was assessed using body-mass index, a
height-to-weight ratio. People with a BMI of 30 or above are considered obese;
those between 25 and 30 are considered overweight.
Someone who is 5 feet, 5 inches tall who
weighs 150 pounds would have a BMI of 25. At a weight of 180 pounds, this
person's BMI would be 30.
On the Net: Health Affairs: