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Obesity, Overweight Carry Heavy Financial Burden

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, September 22, 2010

Carrying excess weight carries a sizeable financial cost.

The overall, tangible, annual costs of being obese are $4,879 for an obese woman and $2,646 for an obese man, while the annual costs of being overweight are $524 and $432 for women and men, respectively, according to a study released this week by the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services.

Adding the value of lost life to these annual costs takes an even higher financial toll. Average annualized costs, including value of lost life, are $8,365 for obese women and $6,518 for obese men. For both genders, the incremental costs of obesity are much higher than the incremental costs of being overweight, the study found.

More than 60% of Americans are overweight or obese. If the current trajectory continues, 50% of the population will be obese by 2030, the study shows.

While the study focuses on the cost to the individual obese and overweight person, such as the value of lost life, lost wages, gasoline costs, and life insurance, it also notes that some of the costs are borne by employers and the government, including direct medical costs, short-term disability, disability pension insurance, absenteeism, and productivity losses.

Employers directly pick up the costs for many of these expenditures. However, employees indirectly share part of this burden through lower wages.

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