It is already known how obesity incurs a great cost to one's health in the form of increased risk of heart disease, type II diabetes, and other chronic diseases. This study aimed to show both indirect and direct costs in areas such as lost wages, absenteeism, life insurance costs, obesity-related medical expenditures, added fuel costs and costs related to disability.
The results of the study showed that obese women pay significantly more than obese men, at $4,879 and $2,646, respectively. In total, obese women pay nine times more and obese men six times more in incremental costs than those who are simply overweight. Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 and over, and overweight as a BMI of 25-29. These higher costs were the same across all levels of income and social class. When taking into account premature mortality, the costs are even higher: $8,365 and $6,518 annually for women and men, respectively.
Direct medical costs are greater for both overweight men and women, men paying 80 percent more and women 66 percent more, but obese men pay proportionately more in medical expenses, whereas women suffer a greater loss of wages, earning 1.5 percent to 15 percent less than women of normal weight. Interestingly, women's weight adversely affects their wages, while men's weight does not.
The study's researchers warned that this study, while taking into account many different costs in relation to obesity, may underestimate the true costs of being overweight. There is anecdotal evidence of the obese paying higher costs for various goods and services.
Lead author of the study, Dr. Avi Dor, Professor and Director of the Health Economics Program at George Washington University, noted that, "existing literature provides information on health- and work-related costs, but with the exception of fuel costs, no published academic research offers insight into consumer-related costs, such as clothing, air travel, automobile size or furniture. Anecdotal evidence suggests these costs could be significant."
The authors reported that some studies showed racial and ethnic disparities in some areas, such as direct medical costs, premature mortality and lost wages. They found that some incremental costs of obesity may be lower for obese African-Americans than the obese white population, and note that no studies have been done to explain why these disparities exist. They note that further research is necessary to understand what factors are involved, as there is a higher prevalence for obesity among the African-American and Hispanic populations.
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