Obesity estimated to cost U.S. billions
A new study suggests that obesity among older Americans costs taxpayers billions of extra dollars in Medicare expenses—a financial burden that will only grow in years to come.
Using data from Medicare surveys conducted between 1992 and 2001, researchers found that men who were obese at age 65 had lifetime healthcare expenses that were up to13 percent higher than normal-weight men their age. Among women, that figure was as high as 17 percent.
Being overweight also cost older adults years of healthy life, the study found. Normal-weight men lived for an average of 76 years without disability, versus 74 years among obese men. Normal-weight women had an average of 74 disability-free years, compared with less than 72 among obese women.
The findings show that obesity costs individuals in terms of health and longevity, and the public in terms of dollars, said Dr. Zhou Yang who, with Dr. Allyson G. Hall, conducted the study. Both researchers are at the University of Florida, Gainesville.
“The obesity epidemic could place a significant financial burden” on society, Yang told Reuters Health.
The findings, published in the online issue of the journal Health Services Research, are based on survey data and medical care claims for 28,906 Medicare recipients age 65 or older.
Considering that overall healthcare costs—including doctor visits, prescription drugs and hospitalizations—the excess expenses for each obese individual averaged $26,000. This, according to Yang and Hall, means that the total cost of the “overweight and obesity epidemic” in the U.S. could be up to $400 billion.
With “baby boomers” now hitting retirement age, the healthcare costs of obesity will likely keep climbing, according to the researchers.
This makes preventing obesity a priority, Yang said—to not only extend people’s lives, but also to make those later years healthier ones. “Otherwise, obesity will cost the person’s health, income and ability to participate in everyday life sooner or later,” Yang said.
SOURCE: Health Services Research, online October 24, 2007.
Tell-a-Friend comments powered by Disqus