Workplace

Too fat? Obesity causing health care costs to soar

Updated: 2013-04-11T05:19:20Z

By DIANE STAFFORD

The Kansas City Star

Whether you’re obese or not, obesity increases Americans’ health expenditures by $1,723 a year per person.

According to research reported Tuesday, more than one in four Americans aged 18 and older — 66 million people — are defined as obese, or about 30 pounds over their ideal weight.

The MetLife Mature Market Institute and Center for Healthy Aging said poor eating habits and lack of exercise had contributed to increased incidences of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

About three in 10 U.S. adults have high blood pressure. About one in 10 have diabetes.

Researchers examined data from 2000 to 2010, finding growth in obesity-related chronic conditions. The prevalence of hypertension grew from 35 percent to 41 percent among those aged 45 and older. The share of the 45-and-older age group with diabetes rose from 10 percent to 15 percent.

“The rise in the prevalence of chronic conditions has implications for the financing and delivery of healthcare in the future,” the report said. “They are more likely to be hospitalized, fill more prescriptions, have higher annual prescription drug costs, and have more physician visits.”

The report said obesity-related problems have a financial effect in the workplace, particularly because employers and employees alike are shouldering steeper health insurance costs. Attendance and productivity also are hurt.

Many studies are beginning to find an apparent effectiveness in employer-based incentives and education programs to help employees exercise, lose weight and stop smoking.

“Companies with worksite wellness programs can be a significant change agent in improving health … and lowering costs,” the report said.

To reach Diane Stafford, call 816-234-4359 or send email to stafford@kcstar.com.

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