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The Health Economics of Obesity

Leslie Golden, MD, DABOM · Watertown Family Practice (Private Practice)  

Disclosures

March 15, 2023

Key Takeaways:

  • Medical care costs related to obesity are estimated to be $173 billion per year.

  • Other costs include increased insurance claims, workers' compensation claims, and absenteeism.

  • Employer costs include more expensive life and health insurance.

  • However, obesity is both preventable and treatable, so clinicians have the opportunity to reduce individual and economic burdens.

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Obesity is an epidemic, with nearly half of the adults in America experiencing and living with obesity. And,a lot of us may be aware of the cost to quality of life, but the economic impact of obesity is actually quite significant.[1,2] The medical care cost related to obesity is estimated to be about $173 billion per year.[3] 

And that's just the direct costs. Other costs that may not be directly related to obesity are things like insurance claims that are triple with those that are living with obesity versus not. There are twice as many workers' comp claims related to obesity. And people that are living with obesity miss more work, with increased sick leave time, as well as they're twice as likely to be absent from work. 

When we're looking at employer costs, higher life insurance costs, health insurance costs, as well as disability premiums for employees that have obesity versus not—for individuals, we also see that people living with obesity often get lower pay for the same job. So although this may seem daunting, it is important to remember that obesity is both preventable and treatable. We have opportunities to reduce the individual, as well as the economic burden of the disease. 

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