Obesity and Medical Costs

Eric Finkelstein and Hae Kyung Yang

in The Oxford Handbook of the Social Science of Obesity

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199736362
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Obesity and Medical Costs

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This chapter summarizes the literature on the relationship between obesity and medical spending, including a discussion of both per capita and aggregate annual and lifetime medical costs attributable to obesity, and external costs funded by public sector health plans. A description on the implications of these findings for setting health policy is also given. The lifetime cost estimates are consistently positive, revealing that successful obesity-prevention efforts have the potential to be both health improving and cost saving over time. Obesity does impose significant health costs on publicly funded health plans, which many have deemed a financial externality. It is worth noting that if the high total or external costs of obesity are the underlying justification for publicly funded obesity interventions, then, regardless of how effective an intervention is at reducing weight, unless it is cost-saving, it ultimately raises costs even more.

Keywords: obesity; medical costs; public sector; health plans; health policy

Article.  2726 words. 

Subjects: Economics ; Health, Education, and Welfare

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