There has been this meme floating around leftist and feminist circles that states “healthy at any weight.” To put it bluntly, this is a statement that overweight females with low self-esteem say to make themselves feel better. Anyone with half a functioning noodle in their head knows it’s untrue. I’m not going to list all the unhealthy consequences of being overweight, instead I’ll just link you to the NIH. What I would like to do is examine the economic cost of obesity on the American healthcare industry. This is a topic that is less explored than the health risk associated with obesity.
It is estimated that treating obesity and the other risk factors that come along with over eating can cost the public up to 190 billion a year. This is an astronomical number that has surpassed smoking as being the primary force in increased healthcare costs. Forbes magazine states that:
“Obese men rack up an additional $1,152 a year in medical spending, especially for hospitalizations and prescription drugs, Cawley and Chad Meyerhoefer of Lehigh University reported in January in the Journal of Health Economics. Obese women account for an extra $3,613 a year. Using data from 9,852 men (average BMI: 28) and 13,837 women (average BMI: 27) ages 20 to 64, among whom 28 percent were obese, the researchers found even higher costs among the uninsured: annual medical spending for an obese person was $3,271 compared with $512 for the non-obese.”
Obesity also has a negative costly impact in the individual directly related to productivity at work and a negative impact when seeking raises. Sharon Begley of Reuters states:
“Decreased productivity can reduce wages, as employers penalize less productive workers. Obesity hits workers’ pocketbooks indirectly, too: Numerous studies have shown that the obese are less likely to be hired and promoted than their svelte peers are. Women in particular bear the brunt of that, earning about 11 percent less than women of healthy weight, health economist John Cawley of Cornell University found. At the average weekly U.S. wage of $669 in 2010, that’s a $76 weekly obesity tax.”
The increasing cost of healthcare is alarming to everyone in the country. Many public health specialist have created fitness programs and diets that target overweight individuals. These programs try to educate Americans on the importance of healthy eating and exercise. This is the most successful way of combating the obesity epidemic in the U.S. and lowering the healthcare cost curve.