The real cost of obesity is not necessarily to the person themselves, but to society in general. One of the main costs are in the increases in insurance premiums due to increased costs insurance companies incur by paying claims of patients that are overweight and have health challenges as a result of being obese. Dr. Nayer Khazeni puts it well recently writing in the San Francisco Chronicle:
"Today, cutting across all income groups, obesity remains a dangerous medical condition and a national public health crisis, costing Americans $100 billion in health care expenditures and more than 400,000 premature deaths each year. A number of studies have now demonstrated links between obesity and a host of medical conditions, including depression, gastroesophageal reflux, sleep apnea, gout, osteoarthritis, gallbladder disease, kidney disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, stroke, pulmonary hypertension, blood clots, dementia and several cancers (endometrial, breast, pancreas, kidney, esophageal, multiple myeloma, lymphoma, prostate, liver and colon).
A July 2007 study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health estimates that 75 percent of American adults and 24 percent of American children will be overweight or obese by 2015. During my residency, patients weighing more than 325 pounds used to be transferred from the hospital to local zoo scanners for imaging. Even with newer machines that accommodate larger patients, radiologists need to use high levels of radiation to acquire images because of increased body mass. Scanners designed for patients weighing as much as 615 pounds are in the works."
And the costs to the insurance companies are passed on to everyone, not just those filing claims, everyone shares the costs. A study in the respected journal 'Health Affairs' reported that "estimates reveal that the public sector is responsible for financing nearly half of overweight- and obesity-attributable medical spending." So those covered by insurance plans that never file a claim, are healthy and use the insurance for emergencies (as I believe it was originally designed and ought to be used) end up paying higher premiums along with those that file more often due to health issues like obesity. Those that are healthy pay up to half of the 100 billion a year in extra medical expenses attributed to obesity.
But the costs to society don't stop there.
There are also costs to local, state and national governments to provide access to those that are obese, who are also sometimes handicapped. There are costs to private companies to provide equal access and accommodations to both employees and clients. Health insurance premiums and more.
The American workforce is also losing it's edge from this crisis. With obesity increasing, workers become less productive, use more sick days, work less and cost their employers in more time and money than other employees.
And who benefits from this crisis?
Well, health insurance companies continue to raise premiums (and profits), doctors and other health care providers are busier than ever, drug companies are salivating at the prospect of creating more drugs to 'help' with a 'magic pill' and the list goes on.
Can you see why this is truly a 'crisis' that effects more than just the one obese individual?
And let's not forget, obesity is a direct result of poor diet and lack of activity.
Let me know what you think.
To your best health!