New data shows obesity costs will grow to $344 billion by 2018

December 15, 2009

A new says rising obesity rates will continue to be an increasing burden on the health care system over the next decade.

A new study predicts that rising obesity rates will continue to be an increasing burden on the health care system over the next decade. The report, "The Future Cost of Obesity: National and State Estimates of the Impact of Obesity on Direct Health Care Expenses," estimates obesity prevalence and costs at the state and national level 10 years from now.

Based on research by Emory University healthcare economist Ken Thorpe, executive director of the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD), the report was commissioned by UnitedHealth Foundation, Partnership for Prevention, and American Public Health Association in conjunction with their annual America's Health Rankings report.

The new data predicts that if current trends continue, 43% of U.S. adults will be obese and obesity spending will quadruple to $344 billion by 2018. However, if obesity rates are held at current levels, the U.S. would save nearly $200 billion in health care costs, according to the report.

"Because obesity is related to the onset of so many other illnesses, stopping the growth of obesity in the U.S. is vital not only to our health - but also to the solvency of our health care system," said Thorpe.

The report projects that obesity will surpass 50% of the adult population in Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma and South Dakota, with an associated increase in health spending linked to obesity of more than $1,600 per person in each of those states. The report also projects that obesity rates will remain below 35% in Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Virginia and the District of Columbia. Obesity-attributable health spending will climb to more than $800 per person by 2018 in each of those states, according to the report.