A recent study published in the journal Public Health, entitled “Health care expenses in relation to obesity and smoking among U.S. adults by gender, race/ethnicity, and age group: 1998–2011“, found that obese individuals and smokers tend to incur higher annual health care costs when compared to their non-obese and non-smoking peers. The study also reports that these costs are higher among older adults and non-Hispanic whites.
This comparative cost analysis was conducted by Ruopeng An, a professor at the University of Illinois. He said in a press release: “Health care costs associated with obesity and smoking are substantial, about $1,360 and $1,046 per person per year, respectively.”
Expenses regarding emergency room visits, prescriptions, outpatient and inpatient care all contribute to extra healthcare expenditures; and inpatient prescriptions comprise a great majority of health dollars spent.
“The added costs were not only large but also increased substantially over the last decade,” An reported. Between 1998 and 2011, the costs associated with obesity increased by 25 percent and those associated with smoking increased by 33 percent.
The increase in expenses is mainly associated with medication prescriptions. According to the study, the pharmaceutical expenses involved in cases of obesity were 62 percent higher in 2011 than in 1998, and 70 percent higher among smokers in 2011 than in 1998.
Data from 125,955 participants in the 1996-2010 National Health Interview Surveys who also participated in the 1998-2011 Medical Expenditure Panel Surveys was analyzed. It was found that those with higher body mass indexes (BMI) had higher medical expenses too, and older adults with longer smoking histories had higher medical associated expenses than younger ones do.
This study was focused on analyzing consequent healthcare costs and did not include the indirect costs related to one’s employment and society that may result from absenteeism or reductions in productivity.
Finally, An noted, as it can be read in the press release: “Annual per-capita expenses associated with obesity are found to exceed those associated with smoking in nearly all forms of care except for emergency-room services (…) However, unlike smoking, which substantially increases the likelihood of premature death (for example, mortality from lung cancer), obesity and associated Type 2 diabetes primarily lead to long-term disability, so that from a lifetime perspective, obesity could tax the health care system even more than smoking.”