HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Akron Univ. School of Law

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Costly People to Cover -- Healthy People

PLoS Medicine published a study by Dutch scientists whichprovides an overview of how much obesity costs the nation.  It has received some (see AP article here) because its conclusions about the cost of the obese are not quite what people expected.  It turns out that obese people are not as costly as one might assume - it is those with slighly lower BMIs and a history as a non-smoker who tend to live longer and those consume more health care dollars. 

The researchers used their model to estimate the number of surviving individuals and the occurrence of various diseases for three hypothetical groups of men and women, examining data from the age of 20 until the time when the model predicted that everyone had died. The “obese” group consisted of never-smoking people with a BMI of more than 30; the “healthy-living” group consisted of never-smoking people with a healthy weight; the “smoking” group consisted of lifetime smokers with a healthy weight. Data from the Netherlands on the costs of illness were fed into the model to calculate the yearly and lifetime health-care costs of all three groups. The model predicted that until the age of 56, yearly health costs were highest for obese people and lowest for healthy-living people. At older ages, the highest yearly costs were incurred by the smoking group. However, because of differences in life expectancy (life expectancy at age 20 was 5 years less for the obese group, and 8 years less for the smoking group, compared to the healthy-living group), total lifetime health spending was greatest for the healthy-living people, lowest for the smokers, and intermediate for the obese people.

Darn those healthy people - I think I will go eat some more chocolate and consider some unhealthy habits I can adopt just so that I won't be adding to our nation's health care costs.

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