Here's Your Best Incentive to Lose WeightJanuary 2012
Obesity can flatten your pocketbook
Every year, losing weight is among the most popular New Year's resolutions.
That's good news. It shows that people care about their health — enough to spend $58 billion a year on weight-loss products.
About 34% of Americans over age 20 are overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity's risks to your physical health are well documented. But what you probably don't know are the financial costs. That's because the data have never been quantified.
For the first time, we can reveal the cost of being overweight or obese. You're overweight if your body mass index is between 25 and 29, and obese if your BMI is above 30. So says a George Washington University study, which examined the direct/ indirect costs and lost productivity of overweight and obese people.
The results: Being overweight costs women $524 per year and men $432 per year. Obesity costs U.S. women $4,879 per year and men $2,646. Factoring in earlier death pushes the total cost of obesity even higher — to $8,365 for women and $6,518 for men.
Obesity costs women more because, statistically, they're more prone than men to job-related costs, such as lost wages, absenteeism and disability. Obese women pay nine times more in that area than people with a healthy BMI, while obese men pay six times more, according to the study.
As you might expect, direct medical costs are a major factor, accounting for 66% of weight-related costs for overweight women and 80% for overweight men. Obesity is a key cost driver for obese men, but it represents just 30% of overall costs for obese women, who lose more income through lost wages (38%) than from medical expenses, the study found.
Here's a breakdown of non-medical costs linked to being overweight or obese:
Wages. Obese men lose a statistically insignificant amount, but obese women suffer wage losses of 6% per year. The study could not explain why the relationship between weight and earnings is clear for women but not for men.
Absenteeism. At least five studies show that obese workers use more sick days. One study reported that severely to morbidly obese women are absent from work one to five more days than women with a healthy BMI, while men in the same category miss two more days annually than men with a healthy weight.
Productivity. Studies show that obese men and women have more self-reported work limitations, with one estimating that lower productivity because of weight causes an obese person to lose $358 per year.
Short-term disability. The annual cost of short-term disability for an obese worker is $349 more than for one with a healthy BMI, and $55 higher for an overweight employee.
Gasoline costs. Morbidly obese men spend $36 more per year and morbidly obese women $30 more per year than healthy-weight persons, based on $2.35 per gallon of gas — the average in 2009. A 2006 study found that the nation uses nearly one billion more gallons of gasoline annually than in 1960 because people are heavier than they were.
Life insurance. Overweight individuals pay an average $14 more and the obese pay an average of $111 more in premiums yearly than people of healthy weight, industry figures show.
Premature mortality. The GWU study reported that the cost of early mortality for a morbidly obese white male is $9,961 and for a morbidly obese female $7,946.
The study also found that severely or morbidly obese workers tend to retire earlier than people of healthy weight. As a result, they accumulate less money in their retirement plans and enjoy lower retirement benefits.
You knew that maintaining a healthy weight made you healthier. Now you know it also makes you wealthier.