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Obese Patients' Health Care Costs Doubled


Updated November 11, 2008

Morbidly obese pay nearly twice as much for health care

CINCINNATI -- Health-care costs for morbidly obese people are nearly double what patients considered to be of normal weight pay, according to a recent University of Cincinnati study.

The research found medical expenditures for morbidly obese adults in the year 2000 were 81 percent higher than normal-weight adults, 65 percent more than overweight adults, and 47 percent more than obese adults.

The researchers say the increased costs stem from greater spending on visits to the doctor, outpatient hospital care, inpatient care and prescription drugs.

"The economic burden of morbid obesity among U.S. adults is substantial," says David Arterburn, MD, assistant professor of internal medicine and the study's lead researcher.

In 2000, nearly 5 million U.S. adults were considered morbidly obese, bringing health-care spending associated with excess body weight to more than $11 billion for that year.

Morbid obesity (being 100 pounds or more above ideal body weight or a BMI of 40+), is rising twice as fast as obesity (BMI greater than 30) in America.

The study's authors found that $56 billion in U.S. heath-care expenditures in 2000 were linked to excess body weight -- a 12 percent increase over 1998.

"If the number of morbidly obese Americans continues to increase over the next decade, total U.S. health-care expenditures will likely continue to rise," says Dr. Arterburn.

Morbid obesity is associated with a substantially increased risk of sickness and death from chronic health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

This study appears in the Feb. 14, 2005 issue of the International Journal of Obesity.

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