Milken Report: Obesity Cost Reaches $1.7 trillion in the U.S.

SANTA MONICA (CNS) - Obesity causes a roughly $1.7 trillion annual drain on the U.S. economy, equal to 9.3 percent of the nation's gross domestic product, according to a Santa Monica-based Milken Institute report released today.

The study, titled “America's Obesity Crisis: The Health and Economic Impact of Excess Weight,” estimated direct health-care costs of $480.7 billion due to obesity in 2016, along with $1.24 trillion in lost productivity.

The study also examined the impact excess weight plays in 23 chronic diseases and the increased risk of diseases such as breast cancer, heart disease, and osteoarthritis. For example, the 2016 treatment cost for all type 2 diabetes cases, which are often linked to excessive weight, was $121 billion and indirect costs were $215 billion, with $7,109 in treatment costs per patient and $12,633 in productivity costs, according to the report.

Obesity is linked to 75 percent of osteoarthritis cases, 64 percent of type 2 diabetes cases and 73 percent of kidney disease cases.

More effective weight-control strategies could reduce the health and economic burdens of chronic diseases, according to the report's co-author, Hugh Waters, director of health economics research at the Milken Institute.

“Despite the billions of dollars spent each year on public health programs and consumer weight-loss products, the situation isn't improving,” Waters said. “A new approach is needed.”

Being overweight adds stress on the joints and the cardiovascular system, researchers said. Inflammation and increased insulin resistance can be triggered by hormones secreted by fat cells which, in turn, can contribute to greater risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers, according to the report.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 40 percent of Americans were obese and 33 percent were overweight in 2016, a steady climb since 1962 when 13 percent of Americans were obese and 32 percent were overweight.

Direct medical costs cited by the report include payments made by individuals, families, employers, and insurance companies, while indirect costs include the economic impact of work absences, lost wages, and reduced productivity of patients and caregivers.

The report was based on data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Center for Health Statistics, the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The report uses the World Health Organization's definition of overweight as a body mass index of 25 to 29.9 and obesity as a BMI of 30 or higher, according to the institute.

Photos: Getty Images

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