Obesity Costs U.S. $73 Billion!

If you ever wondered how much obesity costs a nation such as the United States, well, if you want to put a price tag on it, a new study suggests that the bill is cool $73 billion.

Let’s take a step back and define what exactly obesity means…  Obesity is defined, in clinical terms, as individuals who have a body mass index which is greater than 30.  To calculate your body mass index, take your weight in kilograms and divide that by your height in meters (squared).

[box type=”important”]If that sounds like too much math to bother, you can also get a quick result with an online body mass index calculator (follow link).[/box]

In contrast to obesity, being overweight is defined as a body mass index ranging from 25-30.

Losing weight can be difficult and it generally requires making positive lifestyle changes including your diet along with a regular exercise regime (for sustained weight loss).  Several studies suggest that the weight loss effect of various tend to plateau after six months without combining these changes with exercise.

Back to the recent study, the $73 billion dollar cost associated with obesity in the United States stems primarily from excess medical cost along with lost workplace productivity.  They also included data from the 2006 Medical Expenditures Panel Survey which included 8.875 participants.

Breakdown of these Costs from 2 National Surveys:

  • $30.3 billion in direct medical costs
  • $12.8 billion in workplace absenteeism
  • $30.0 billion in “presenteeism” — at work but less productive because of health problems

From this survey based research by Finkelstein and his colleagues, the degree of obesity correlated further with these costs.

While the study found that men who were overweight (but not obese) were no more likely to have higher medical costs or miss more work than normal weight men, for overweight women, they were more likely than their normal weight counterparts to miss work and have higher medical related expenses.

Study Design?

Okay, the study for this National Health and Wellness Survey was internet-based, used a convenience sample instead of randomized sample though it did include over 24,000 participants.

[box type=”important”]Bottom line: Obesity has significant financial cost both for obese individuals as well as their employers.  More than 1/4 Americans are obese.[/box]


  1. Finkelstein EA, Dibonaventura MD, Burgess SM, Hale BC. The Costs of Obesity in the Workplace. The Costs of Obesity in the Workplace. The Costs of Obesity in the Workplace. J Occup Environ Med. 2010 Sep 25

9 thoughts on “Obesity Costs U.S. $73 Billion!

  • February 9, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    You mean, the medical industry is making an additional $73 billion because of obesity. I wonder how much food manufacturers make from obesity. Everyone profits… at the people’s expense.

  • May 25, 2011 at 9:05 am

    It is unbelievable how bad obesity has become in the US, surely it will take multiple generations until these financial figures and costs drastically reduce and people become a lot healthier. Education on healthy eating and living needs to start in schools and when the kids are young, otherwise it’s way too costly and almost too late.

  • November 1, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    I wonder how much extra money is raised each year by the food manufacturers that keep aggressively marketing junk food. Maybe the economy will be worse off if food companies could not advertise their junk. This could be the reason why the government has not properly addressed the crisis.

  • October 15, 2010 at 11:20 pm

    This is horrible. The obesity epidemic must be stopped. If only we could just get rid of bread and sugar.

  • Pingback: Get Six Pack Abs | Obesity’s Hidden Cost: Lost Productivity at Work

    • October 8, 2010 at 8:33 am

      Yeah Doug, the U.S. could afford a number of primary prevention initiatives with that sum of money.

  • October 8, 2010 at 3:12 am

    Sobering picture and isn’t your health system mainly private so the hospitals will be making plenty with obesity related illness! The news just seems to be getting worse Jarret.
    One great program we have introduced into schools here in Oz is a gardening program in primary schools (teach them young and get them into healthy habits early)where the children grow organic vegetables, learn how to cook healthy meals with them and enjoy them at lunchtime. It is proving to be a great success and now the children are teaching their parents about healthy eating habits. So good I say.
    Maybe that’s the way forward.
    Patricia Perth Australia

    • October 8, 2010 at 8:32 am

      Patricia,that sounds like an innovative program engaging students to eat healthy at a young age. Interesting to hear the effect it has on changing their parents eating habits too.


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