New Study: Obesity Is Bad for Your Bottom Line

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Each year, obese American men pay an additional $2,646 to carry their extra weight, while women pay a whopping $4,879. That's the surprising result of a new study on the individual cost of obesity released on Tuesday. Overall, the findings suggest that obese women face health-related costs as much as nine-times higher, and men six-times higher, than the costs incurred by individuals who are merely overweight.

The study, by the George Washington University School of Public Health, used indirect costs (such as lost productivity) and direct costs (such as obesity-related medical expenditures) to estimate the price obese men and women pay as a result of being significantly overweight. Those costs increased even more when the study measured the value of early loss of life due to obesity -- the annual cost to women jumped to $8,365 and the cost to men climbed to $6,518.

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The study's author, Avi Dor, a professor and the director of George Washington's Health Economics Program believes the costs of obesity may even be higher than the report reveals. Dor said consumer-related costs, such as paying extra for clothing, air travel, automobile size or furniture add to the costs, but cannot be truly quantified. "Anecdotal evidence suggests these costs could be significant," Dor said.

Dor found that direct medical costs, including emergency room visits, pharmaceuticals and in-patient care generally cost more for obese individuals. In fact the study estimates that by 2030, the health care costs attributable to the overweight and obese could account for 16% to 18% of total U.S. health care costs. Annual health care costs in the U.S. are now estimated at $147 billion.

The study also found that obese women lost a higher percentage of income due to work-related issues, such as time lost at work due to lowered productivity and higher absenteeism.

"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," said Joe Nadglowski, president and CEO of the Obesity Action Coalition. "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."
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