Cost savings peak at age 50, a new study says
Shedding pounds could help pad your bank account.
Adult weight loss yields savings at any age, a new study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health suggests. The cost savings, which peak at age 50, come from direct medical costs and productivity losses.
Helping a 20-year-old transition from obese to overweight, for example, would save $17,655 on average across his or her lifetime in productivity losses and direct medical costs; going from obese to a healthy weight could save the same person $28,020, according to the research published in the journal Obesity. For a 40-year-old, the shift from obese to overweight could save $18,262; from obese to a normal weight, the same person might save $31,447. Average total savings at age 50 are $36,278.
“Over half the costs of being overweight can be from productivity losses, mainly due to missed work days but also productivity losses. This means that just focusing on medical costs misses a big part of the picture, though they’re a consideration, too,” study co-author Bruce Y. Lee said in a statement. “Productivity losses affect businesses, which in turn affects the economy, which then affects everyone.”
The study used a conservative estimate of productivity loss, capturing reduced productivity measured by annual wages attenuated by a person’s preference for his or her own health — but not looking at absenteeism or premature death.
The direct medical costs of obesity were projected at $147 billion in 2008, according to a 2009 study. Indirectly, the annual cost of obesity-related absenteeism is estimated between $3.38 billion and $6.38 billion nationally, or $79 to $132 per obese person, per a 2008 literature review cited by the CDC.
The researchers, armed with data from the NIH-supported Coronary Artery Disease Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) and Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study (ARIC), designed a computational model “that simulated the progression of an adult’s weight, disease outcomes, and associated costs throughout his or her lifetime” — every 10 years from ages 20 through 80.
The model, examining incremental third-party payer costs, productivity losses, societal costs and associated costs and health effects, gave a “realistic calculation” after taking into account weight-related health risks like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and some types of cancer, co-author Saeideh Fallah-Fini said.
“By realizing the effects of obesity on the productivity of their employees and consequently their profits, employers may look to redesign or sponsor healthy lifestyle programs with weight-loss initiatives,” the authors wrote. “Additionally, incremental costs incurred per year for patients with obesity versus overweight decrease after age 50, implying that older adults with both obesity and overweight need to lose weight to avert the health and cost associated with weight gain.”
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