Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Obesity Fattens Medical-Care Costs

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By James Gaffney

Mature Life Features

Getting obese gets expensive.

Overweight and obese individuals incur up to $1,500 more in annual medical costs than healthy-weight individuals, according to a two-year study of nearly 200,000 employees of General Motors.

Average annual medical costs for normal-weight workers in the study were $2,225, while costs for overweight and obese individuals rose steadily, from $2,388 for overweight individuals to $3,753 for the most-severely obese persons.

The study headed by Dee W. Edington of the University of Michigan was the first to examine the relationship between medical costs and the six weight groups defined by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s weight guidelines.

The guidelines separate individuals into under weight, healthy weight, overweight, and three obesity designations based on average body-mass index. The findings highlight the economic burden that obesity places on society, Edington and colleagues note. Back in 1994, researchers conservatively estimated the direct medical costs of obesity in the United States at $52 billion dollars. Controlling weight and obesity-related health conditions “is especially important to corporations, where the percentage of revenue spent on medical benefits continues to increase,” said the study authors.

Edington and colleagues analyzed weight, height, gender, age, and annual medical costs charged per person. They found that 40 percent of the GM employees in the study were overweight and 21.3 percent were obese. Healthy-weight employees made up 37 percent of those in the study, while 1.5 percent were considered under weight. In general, annual median medical costs were lowest for the healthy-weight group, compared with both underweight, overweight, and obese groups. Medical costs steadily increased as body mass index increased, regardless of gender or age for the most part.

The relationship between body mass and medical costs was unclear for the oldest males in the group, aged 75 and older. Although the study did not consider any specific links between obesity and medical costs, the authors noted that “it has already been established that overweight and obese conditions can lead to many chronic diseases and excess health-care utilization.”

Mature Life Features, Copyright 2004

Written by Cecil Scaglione

August 15, 2012 at 8:22 pm

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