Obesity costs a U.S. adult nearly $ 1,900 a year
It is well known that obesity contributes to health conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers, and the cost of health care reflects this.
But new research deepened the link between weight and medical costs. Overall, the health costs for obese adults were nearly $ 1,900 higher each year compared to their normal weight classmates. The researchers found that when adults were in the “fat” category, incremental weight gain also led to additional health care costs.
The findings, based on nearly 180,000 Americans, seem like bad news.
In other words, however, small improvements in weight also suggest the possibility of saving health care.
“You saw the glass half full, half empty,” said Marlene Schwartz, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut.
“On the one hand, it’s not just categorical changes in BMI that increase health care costs, it’s also small changes,” said Schwartz, who was not involved in the study.
“On the other hand,” he added, “this means that even small improvements in the BMI can have an impact.”
BMI or body mass index, a measure of weight relative to height. It is often described by category: BMI between 30 and 34.9 is a “class I obesity” category, 35 to 39.9 is a “class II”, and a BMI of 40 or more is “class III” or “severe” obesity.
In this study, when people reached a BMI of 30, a single-unit increase also led to an increase in annual health care spending, an additional $ 253 per person.
Not surprisingly, severe obesity had the highest price – it cost $ 3,100 more per person than Americans with normal BMI.
However, Zachary Ward, head of research, agreed that the findings can be clearly seen.
If fat adults can’t lose a lot of weight – Ward says it’s a difficult feat – being modest can have benefits weight loss, or even avoid weight gain.
“If people maintain their weight as they get older, that can prevent some of those health care costs,” said Ward, a researcher at Harvard School of Public Health.
The study was published in the journal March 24 PLOS ONE, it comes at a time when obesity rates are rising among Americans. As of 2018, more than 42% of U.S. adults were obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It was over 30% about 20 years ago.
The agency says just over 9% of adults are severely obese.
The latest findings are based on more than 175,000 adults and children who participated in one of two federal health surveys.
Overall, the Warden team estimated that adult obesity had an annual medical expenditure of nearly $ 173 billion nationwide.
Overall, obesity-related health care costs were highest for people in their 60s, Warden said. But, he added, obesity is a concern among children and young adults, in part because obesity is likely to increase with age.
Ward said childhood is an ideal time for prevention because it is both earlier, better, and generally easier for programs to reach children.
Schwartz agreed. “It’s very important to focus on good nutrition in childhood,” he said. “And it’s an area that the government can regulate.”
Schwartz sought to make fresh produce and other healthy foods more accessible to low-income Americans through the Food Stamp and Women, Babies and Children programs. The National School Lunch Program has also updated nutrition standards to boost children’s fruit and vegetable intake.
But it’s also never too late for adults to make dietary changes or start exercising. It’s an uphill battle, Schwartz points out, and as people get older, they’re facing a natural slowdown in metabolism.
As recent findings suggest, however, avoiding further weight gain (especially severe obesity) can be considered a gain.
“Every step taken in the right direction counts,” Schwartz said.
But in order for individuals to be successful, they need help. When healthy options are facilitated (e.g., a workplace consisting of fruits and vegetables rather than vending machines filled with junk food) people will respond, Schwartz said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has low-cost advice healthy eating.
SOURCES: Zachary Ward, PhD, MPH, Scientific Researcher, Center for Health Decision Science, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, Boston; Dr. Marlene Schwartz, director and director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, and professor of human development and family sciences at the University of Connecticut in Hartford; PLOS ONE, March 24, 2021, online