New Data Shows Obesity Costs Will Grow to $344 Billion by 2018

As Congress Seeks to Lower Health Care Costs, New Report Finds Obesity Costs Will Quadruple Over the Next Decade Without Action

A new study released today shows that rising obesity rates will continue to be an increasing burden on the health care system over the next decade. The report, titled, "The Future Cost of Obesity: National and State Estimates of the Impact of Obesity on Direct Health Care Expenses," is the first to estimate obesity prevalence and costs at the state and national level 10 years from now. Based on research by Emory University health care economist Ken Thorpe, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD), the report was commissioned by UnitedHealth Foundation, Partnership for Prevention, and American Public Health Association in conjunction with their annual America’s Health Rankings report.

The new data shows that if current trends continue, 43 percent of U.S. adults will be obese and obesity spending will quadruple to $344 billion by 2018. However, if obesity rates are instead held at current levels, the U.S. would save nearly $200 billion in health care costs.

"At a time when Congress is looking for savings in health care, this data confirms what we already knew: obesity is where the money is," said Thorpe. "Because obesity is related to the onset of so many other illnesses, stopping the growth of obesity in the U.S. is vital not only to our health - but also to the solvency of our health care system."

The Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD), the leading national voice for advancing health reforms that tackle obesity and other chronic health issues, believes that a top priority must be addressing the obesity epidemic through meaningful, evidence-based approaches, including:

  • Removing barriers and empowering Americans to take control of their health
  • Educating Americans to see being obese as a serious medical condition that significantly heightens their risk for other health problems
  • Ensuring that fear about the stigma of obesity does not eclipse the need to combat it
  • Redesigning our health care system to treat obesity like a preventable medical condition
  • Engaging employers and communities to get them invested in promoting wellness

"I am hopeful that health and wellness programs to prevent obesity and other chronic conditions will remain a top priority in final legislation as health reform moves through Congress," Thorpe said. “These are problems we can no longer afford to ignore."

The report projects that obesity will surpass 50 percent of the adult population in six states, with an associated increase in health spending linked to obesity of more than $1,600 per person in each of these states:

“Worst” States2008 Obesity Rates2018 Obesity RatesTotal State Cost (in millions) by 2018Cost Per Person by 2018
Kentucky34.8%51.2%$6,008$1,836
Maryland31.2%

52.1%

$7,686$1,642
Mississippi37.7%52.2%$3,877$1,757
Ohio33.9%50.9%$16,222$1,877
Oklahoma35.2%56.1%$5,102$1,906
South Dakota32.7%50.4%$1,008$1,729

 

The obesity rate will remain below 35 percent in only four states and the District of Columbia; nevertheless, obesity-attributable health spending will climb to more than $800 per person by 2018 in each state:

“Best” States2008 Obesity Rate2018 Obesity RateTotal State Cost (in millions) by 2018Cost Per Person by 2018
Colorado23.8%29.8%$3,235$864
Connecticut26.1%

33.6%

$2,907$1,052
Massachusetts26.0%33.9%$5,771$1,119
Virginia30.2%33.4%$6,789$1,053
DC26.4%29.2%$341$933

 

Dr. Thorpe’s study can be accessed through the PFCD site or at http://www.americashealthrankings.org/2009/report/Cost%20Obesity%20Report-final.pdf

About the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease:

The Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD) is a national and state-based coalition of patients, providers, community organizations, business and labor groups, and health policy experts committed to raising awareness of the number one cause of death, disability, and rising health care costs in the U.S.: chronic disease.

For more information about the PFCD and its partner organizations, please visit: www.fightchronicdisease.org.

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View the Report »

View PFCD's Obesity Policy Recommendations »