Obesity Accounts for 21% of U.S. Healthcare Costs

Cornell University researchers found obesity now accounts for nearly 21 percent of U.S. healthcare costs — more than twice the previous estimates.

The researchers said previous studies have underestimated the medical costs of obesity, as those studies reported the difference between the medical expenses of heavier and lighter people. "For example, I could have injured my back at work, and that may have led me to gain weight. The injury could have led to a lot of healthcare costs that are due to my back, not my obesity," one author said.

The Cornell researchers' study found that an obese person incurs medical costs that are $2,741 higher (in 2005 dollars) than if they were not obese. This indicates nationwide healthcare costs of $190.2 billion per year or 20.6 percent of national health expenditures. Previous estimates had pegged the cost of obesity at $85.7 billion or 9.1 percent of national health expenditures.

The authors concluded this research makes a stronger case for government intervention to prevent obesity.

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