Obesity Linked With More Health Costs Than Smoking, Study Finds

Obesity may be more expensive than smoking when it comes to health costs.

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic found that people who are obese have an extra $1,850 in health costs, on average, a year compared with normal weight people. People who smoke, on the other hand, have $1,275 extra, on average, in health costs per year.

And for people who are morbidly obese, the costs are even higher, up to $5,500 a year.

The study was based on the health costs of 30,000 adult retirees and employees of the Mayo Clinic, all of whom had health insurance between 2001 and 2007.

The researchers noted that the extra costs by people who are obese went down after they took into account other health problems those people had. But they noted that obesity is a major risk factor for a number of health problems, so people should be careful not to underestimate the true health costs of obesity.

Reader's Digest reported just this week on a Cornell study showing that 21 percent of health care costs in the United States are related to obesity. That study also broke down the extra health costs of obesity, though the numbers were slightly different from the Mayo study. The Cornell study, published in the Journal of Health Economics showed that obesity is linked with $2,741 more in medical costs each year, compared with non-obese people, Reader's Digest reported.

Recently, a Gallup poll showed that overweight and obese workers cost $153 billion each year to businesses because of lost productivity. Altogether, they miss an extra 450 million days of work each year, compared with people who are not obese or overweight.