Obese People Generate Bigger Health-Care Bills

They use more prescriptions and are hospitalized more often, study finds

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TUESDAY, Oct. 26, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Obese people have higher health-care costs than those who aren't obese, says a study in the Oct. 25 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Researchers at Kaiser Permanente of Colorado, Denver, compared health-care costs over one year for 539 obese people and 1,225 people who weren't obese. The average age of the obese group was 48.2 years and the average age of the non-obese group was 49.1 years. The obese patients had an average body mass index (BMI) of 37.9 while the average BMI for those in the non-obese group was 22.4. A BMI of 30 or more is considered obese.

Over the yearlong study period, median total health-care costs for the obese patients were $585.44, compared with $333.24 for the non-obese patients.

Prescription drug costs accounted for most of that difference. Median prescription drug costs for the obese patients were $357.65, compared with $157.86 for non-obese patients. Obese patients has a median of 11 new and refill drug prescriptions during the year, while non-obese patients had a median of six prescriptions.

Obese patients were 3.85 times more likely than non-obese patients to be hospitalized (4.8 percent vs. 1.47 percent) and the average age of obese patients who were hospitalized was younger than non-obese patients (49 years vs. 56 years).

During the year of the study, obese patients had a median of three outpatient visits while non-obese patients had a median of two.

"The economic burden of obesity is significant, even over the relatively short time period of one year. Our study documents the association between health-care expenditures and level of obesity using individual-level data, while taking age, sex and chronic diseases into consideration," the study authors wrote.

"Further study is needed to establish the economic burden of obesity using data from longer periods," the authors added.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases has more about the health risks of being overweight.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, Oct. 25, 2004

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