Obesity and Overweight costs

Obesity and overweight are defined as the abnormal or excessive accumulation of body fat that can harm health.

From 1975 to 2016 obesity across the board almost tripled. Recent World Health Organization estimates show that in 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults aged 18 and over were overweight. Of these, more than 650 million were obese. This means that 39% of the world's adult population (18 years or older) was overweight and 13% was obese.

To classify overweight and obesity in adults, the body mass index (BMI), which correlates weight with height, is used. BMI is defined as a person's weight in kilograms divided by the square of their height in meters (kg/m2). A high BMI is associated with an increased risk of developing serious diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer. In the USA, with 70% of the population obese or overweight, direct medical expenses cost almost $ 210 billion a year.

A 2017 study showed that weight loss in adults of any age leads to savings in health-related costs. The computational model the researchers developed simulated the health status of an adult as he ages, year after year, throughout his life, to track individual medical costs and productivity losses for each person. Direct medical costs estimated for the insurer and health unit, lost productivity, and time of illness were included.

A 20-year-old adult, moving from obese to overweight saves an average of $ 17,655 in direct medical costs and productivity losses throughout his life. However, if the same person goes from being obese to a normal weight, the savings are $ 28,020. A 40-year-old adult, from obese to overweight, can save an average of $ 18,262. And if the same person went from obese to normal weight, the savings can be $ 31,447.

The results of this study can assist in policymaking on the specific implications and costs associated with obesity, in order to design more successful and effective interventions. It can also help healthcare professionals to implement preventive actions and target different patient profiles. For patients, it may be interesting to better understand their health risks and future expenses, according to their BMI and health condition.



Fallah-Fini S, Adam A, Cheskin LJ, Bartsch SM, Lee BY. The Additional Costs and Health Effects of a Patient Having Overweight or Obesity: A Computational Model. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2017 Oct;25(10):1809-1815. doi: 10.1002/oby.21965. PMID: 28948718; PMCID: PMC5679120.

World Health Organization. WHO Obesity and Overweight. https://who.int/. Accessed January 28th 2021.

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