Wolf 1996 - "Social and Economic Effects of Body Weight in the United States"

Wolf, Anne M.; Colditz, Graham A.
"Social and Economic Effects of Body Weight in the United States"
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
March 1996; v.63, n.3 (supplement); pp.466S-469S
On the Web
Relevance: medium

Wolf and Colditz estimated the direct and indirect costs of obesity using risk estimates for various diseases from the Nurses' Health Study and estimates of lost productivity from the1988 National Health Interview Study.  The authors estimate that "if obesity were prevented, the United States could have saved $45.8 billion in 1990 (in 1993 dollars) or (6.8%) of health care expenditures for that year."

The authors estimate the direct costs of obesity as the proportion of costs for diabetes, coronary heart disease, hypertension, and gallstones that can be attributed to obesity.  To attribute these costs to obesity, they estimate the relative risk of getting the disease for each BMI category, estimate what the disease prevalence would be if everyone instead had a BMI < 22, and calculate the resulting cost reduction.

The authors also estimate the that "52.9 million days of lost productivity would have been averted, saving employers $4 billion in 1990."  This figure comes from the 1988 National Health Interview Survey which includes data on days of restricted activity and days in bed.  "Persons with a with BMI > 30 had, on average,  2.87 more bed days per person than did persons with a BMI < 23."

Caveat: The Nurses' Health Study(may be from 1976) and the 1988 National Health Interview Survey may be too old to be applicable today.

Note: The print article includes detailed tables that may contain important information but were not available online.

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