Healthcare costs for smokers, obese outweigh peers

The cost of providing healthcare services to smokers and obese people is substantially higher than for nonsmokers and non-obese people, according to a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign study.

Ruopeng An, PhD, University of Illinois kinesiology and community health professor, analyzed individual data from 125,955 participants in the 1996 to 2010 National Health Interview Surveys who also participated in the 1998 to 2011 Medical Expenditure Panel Surveys.

Annual healthcare costs associated with obesity and smoking are approximately $1,360 and $1,046, respectively, according to the study. Prescription drugs contribute the most to added costs, while other factors include out-of-pocket medical expenses, both inpatient and outpatient care and emergency department visits.

According to the report, annual healthcare expenditures associated with smoking and obesity increased significantly over the course of the last decade. Costs associated with obesity rose by 25 percent and those associated with smoking rose by nearly a third from 1998 to 2011.

"Annual per-capita expenses associated with obesity are found to exceed those associated with smoking in nearly all forms of care except for emergency [department] services," Dr. An wrote in a news release. "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 healthcare system even more than smoking."

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