Overweight or obese patients have higher health care expenditures

Research Activities, December 2011, No. 376

Annual health-care expenditures related to obesity are estimated to range from $11-14 billion for children and $75-93 billion for adults. A new study reveals that mean annual health-care expenditures for both sexes increased by age within each body mass index (BMI) class and were highest among obese individuals. In all BMI classes, females were more likely to incur expenditures and had higher expenditures than males.

The researchers analyzed data from 2000 to 2005 on a nationally representative sample of 80,516 persons (ages 6 to 85) from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. They estimated health care expenditures across the life cycle to identify the age at which expenditures of overweight and obese males and females become greater than their normal-weight peers. For females, overweight-associated annual expenditures became significantly higher than normal-weight peers at age 22 ($85), peaked at age 66 ($671), and remained significantly higher until age 77 ($623). For males, overweight-associated annual expenditures became significantly higher than normal-weight peers at age 48 ($168) until age 67 ($612), but were lower or similar at other ages.

Obesity-associated expenditures for obese females were significantly lower than normal-weight peers from age 6 (-$156), to age 10 (-$109), similar from age 11 to age 20, but significantly higher from age 21 ($88) until age 82 ($1,497). Obesity-associated expenditures for obese males were significantly lower than normal-weight peers from age 6 (-$288) to age 16 (-$77), similar from age 11 to age 20 (-$109), but higher from age 25 ($88) until age 83 ($3,236).

Both the overweight-associated crossover age (age 22 for women and age 48 for men) and the obesity-associated crossover age (age 21 for women and age 25 for men) occurred earlier for women than for men and remained significantly higher over a much longer period (55 vs. 19 years). The cost figures reflect higher expenditures for ambulatory care, inpatient care, and prescription drugs.

The researchers conclude that their findings may inform clinical practice by specifying when and for whom to target preventive and weight-loss interventions. Their study was supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS13853).

See "Health care expenditures of overweight and obese males and females in the Medical Expenditures Panel Survey by age cohort," by Janice F. Bell, Ph.D., Frederick J. Zimmerman, Ph.D., David E. Arterburn, M.D., M.P.H., and Matthew L. Maciejewski, Ph.D., in the Obesity Journal 19(1), pp. 228-232, 2011.

Current as of December 2011
Internet Citation: Overweight or obese patients have higher health care expenditures: Research Activities, December 2011, No. 376. December 2011. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/dec11/1211RA12.html