05 November 2010

Study shows the cost of obesity much higher than previously thought

According to a Cornell study, obesity is costing us more than originally thought.

While previous studies have reported that obesity costs the average person $1,400 more in annual medical costs, the new study, conducted by Cornell health economist John Cawley and Chad Meyerhoefer of Lehigh University, finds that it's more in the range of $2,800 more per year. The study also found that the estimated cost of treating obesity related conditions(asthma, joint degeneration, heart disease, stroke, and cancer) is $168 billion per year- that's 16.5% of U.S. total medical care costs.

For this study, Cawley and Meyerhoefer utilized a federal survey of 24,000 adults and their doctors and medical providers from 2000 to 2005- the same survey that previous studies on obesity have used. Utilizing a new method for the study, the researchers correlated the weight of participants and their relatives instead of only correlating weight gain and health care spending to determine if obesity itself incurred higher medical costs.

"Given the difference between our findings and previous studies," Cawley said, "we checked our estimates in many ways and found that the findings are very robust. Our estimates are higher in part because we correct for reporting error in weight, and partly because we measure the causal effect of obesity rather than just its correlation with medical costs."

As these findings suggest, the costs of anti-obesity intervention and education are also likely to have been underestimated.

Vegetarian starter kits, anyone?

Teresa Abbate| @TheFriendlyVeg
Born and raised in NYC, Teresa is a TV producer and the blogger behind TheFriendlyVeg.com, where she believes (like a good Italian girl) that the best way to an omnivore's heart is through their stomach.

Photo credit: Alan Cleaver