I've always been told that obesity is a drain a country's healthcare system...and it's generally accepted as fact. In online debates I frequently see reference to this. I remember seeing news reports on 'The Cost Of Obesity' that say obese people cost the U.S. (as an example) millions or billions each year.

I wanted to give a specific claim - so here is just one of a near-endless supply I could find:


Obese men rack up an additional $1,152 a year in medical spending, especially for hospitalizations and prescription drugs

That seems really straight-forward....but, on the flip side....there seems to be evidence that suggests the opposite. One study tracked life-time medical expenses from age 20 until death:


The actual numbers for lifetime from 20 years old medical costs were:

The lifetime costs were in Euros:

Healthy: 281,000

Obese: 250,000

Smokers: 220,000

At first glance - I think it might be possible for both of these statements to be true. An average living obese man might cost an average of $1,152 per year than an average living non-obese man; but the obese man might die sufficiently earlier so that the life-time cost is lower.

But I'm left unable to determine the actual financial impact. Is obesity as scapegoat for increasing insurance costs when, clearly, living a healthy life will result in more medical costs....or is obesity really raising all of our bills?

  • Hope you don't mind. I edited the title so it reflects the claim more clearly. I hope I haven't misrepresented what you wanted to ask.
    – matt_black
    Jan 11 '14 at 19:54
  • 4
    I think it's more complicated than just straight comparison. For example let's assume that healthy vs obese means 20 year delay in spending, and the money is invested at something with 5% interest rate. After 20 years you have +165% of interest. OTOH, obese, smokers, alcoholics, drug addicts etc. are salvation for any social security systems, as very often they don't live long enough to even get one month of pension.
    – vartec
    Jan 12 '14 at 14:31
  • If true, it's because they die younger and so incur lest old age costs.
    – Joshua
    Mar 15 '17 at 17:57

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