NPR logo Obesity: More Expensive Than Ever

Obesity: More Expensive Than Ever

We know that obesity contributes to health-care costs at the population level. Obese people tend to have higher rates of a wide range of diseases than people who maintain a healthy weight; as the percentage of Americans who are obese has increased, so has the disease burden.

Now, a new report from the CBO points to a related phenomenon that looks like a pretty big deal: The extra health costs for each obese person have skyrocketed in the past few decades.

Back in the late '80s, per capita health-care spending for obese adults was about 8 percent higher than spending for adults of normal weight; in 2007, health-care spending for each obese adult was about 38 percent higher than spending for each normal weight adult.

The jump "probably reflects a combination of factors, including changes in the average health status of the obese population and technological advances that offer new, costly treatments for conditions that are particularly common among obese individuals," the CBO director writes in his blog.