Obesity causing health care costs to rise, study finds

Published Apr 18, 2013 at 05:00AM

Whether you’re obese or not, obesity increases Americans’ health expenditures by $1,723 a year per person.

According to research reported this week, more than 1 in 4 Americans aged 18 and older — 66 million people — are defined as obese, or about 30 pounds over their ideal weight.

The MetLife Mature Market Institute and Center for Health Aging said poor eating habits and lack of exercise have contributed to increased incidences of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

About 3 in 10 U.S. adults have high blood pressure. Almost 1 in 10 have diabetes.

Researchers examined data from 2000 to 2010, finding growth in obesity-related chronic conditions. The prevalence of hypertension grew from 35 to 41 percent among those aged 45 and older. The share of the 45-and-older age group with diabetes rose from 10 to 15 percent.

“The rise in the prevalence of chronic conditions has implications for the financing and delivery of health care in the future,” the report said. “They are more likely to be hospitalized, fill more prescriptions, have higher annual prescription drug costs, and have more physician visits.”

The report said obesity-related problems have a financial effect in the workplace, particularly because employers and employees alike are shouldering steeper health insurance costs. Attendance and productivity also are affected negatively.

Many studies are beginning to find an apparent effectiveness in employer-based wellness incentives and health-education programs to help employees exercise, lose weight and stop smoking.

“Companies with worksite wellness programs can be a significant change agent in improving health status and lowering costs,” the report said.

— Diane Stafford, The Kansas City Star