Helping an adult lose weight leads to significant cost savings at any age, with those savings peaking at age 50, suggests a new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study.
The findings, published online September 26 in the journal Obesity, suggests that a 20-year-old adult who goes from being obese to overweight would save an average of $17,655 in direct medical costs and productivity losses over his or her lifetime. If the same person were to go from being obese to a healthy weight, an average savings of $28,020 in direct medical costs and productivity losses can occur. Helping a 40-year-old adult go from being obese to overweight can save an average of $18,262. If the same person went from being obese to normal weight, an average savings of $31,447 can follow.
A high body mass index (BMI) is linked to a higher risk of serious conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers. Subsequently, a high BMI and associated conditions can lead to high medical and societal costs and productivity losses. More than 70 percent of adults in the United States are considered to be overweight or obese, which in direct medical expenses alone costs nearly $210 billion per year.
“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,” says Dr. Bruce Y. Lee, executive director of the Global Obesity Prevention Center (GOPC) at the Bloomberg School. “Productivity losses affect businesses, which in turn affects the economy, which then affects everyone.”