Sample Economics Paper on The Healthcare Cost of Obesity

Obesity has become a leading health catastrophe in the United States, and its prevalence has increased gradually. A study by Sturm showed that as of 2018, an estimated 32% of the U.S population aged 20 years and over was obese (245). Currently, the highest prevalence of obesity is in four states, namely West Virginia, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Iowa. Subsequently, the above-mentioned states have incurred the highest costs in controlling as well as preventing obesity amongst its residents. The costs of obesity (direct or indirect) are high; however, this essay explores the case of State of West Virginia to gain a perspective of these costs.

Negative Health Issues Caused by Obesity

Obesity is a major health concern in the United States. Approximately 34% of the American adult population is obese (73 million people). In the instance that the current trend continues, about 50% of Americans will be overweight or obese by 2030 (Finkelstein et al. 563). Obesity is linked to numerous dangerous ailments such as heart disease, cancer, arthritis, diabetes (type II), hypertension, asthma, as well as some psychological disorders. A study by Lehnert et al. revealed that obesity and overweight, physical conditions are the cause of about 20% of all cancer cases in the U.S. Additionally, obesity is a major influence of CVD, this influences physical as well as social functioning, thus the quality of life (332). The incidence of diabetes (type II) has increased with the rising cases of obesity in the United States. Additionally, there is a direct link between obesity and asthma, particularly among children. For adults, higher body weight is likely to be diagnosed with arthritis as compared to normal weight individuals. The condition also increases the risk of premature mortality (about 300,000 annually). Finally, it degrades the quality of life by limiting mobility, physical endurance, and social, academic, as well as job participation.

The number of people with the condition has increased over the years because of a change in lifestyle. For example, technological advancement had led to the availability of machines that offer labor; hence, people no longer have to do some of the work they had to before that kept them fit. Additionally, the media has encouraged people to stay indoors, thus largely inactive instead of taking part in outdoor activities such as strolls and sports. The significant uptake of junk foods has also contributed to the increase in the prevalence of the condition.

Obesity causes immense financial losses because of the costs incurred in treating the conditions associated with the disorder. In 1998, about 78.5 billion dollars was spent on medical costs related to obesity. In 2008, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicated that the medical costs had gone up to about 147 billion in the year. The costs incurred by an obese individual at the time was approximately $1,429 higher than that of a person with normal body weight. The annual cost of being obese a decade ago. The medical cost was estimated at $342.2 billion (inflation rate adopted is that of 2013). An adult affected by obesity spends averagely $3429 more than a healthy weight adult every year does. The price of dealing with the consequences of overweight is $8,365 and $6,518 for women and men, respectively. According to the manuscript by Alston and Okrent (2017), over the last half-decade, the amount of deaths related to obesity has increased from 18% in 2013 to 25% in 2016. In 2000, 257.6 deaths per 100,000 population were recorded. By 2016, this figured had decreased to 165.5 per 100,000 inhabitants. Despite the reduction in mortality figures, the majority (68%) of the current deaths caused by heart failure are caused by obesity. The costs of these deaths are reported by the CDC was estimated at $1.1 billion (economic value). The high valuation is caused by a majority of the people who are at risk of negative health effects caused by obesity being aged between 40 and 75 years. This demographic represents the U.S working class.

The individuals who are most at risk of the health implications of obesity are adults between the ages of 40 and 75 years as well as children below the age of 16 years. A 2014 report by CDC Adolescent highlighted that 19% of America’s children aged between six and eleven years are considered overweight or obese (Keller 118). Additionally, 18% of teenagers aged between twelve and nineteen are obese and suffer from a negative effect on their weight (Jalilian et al. 60). The mentioned demographic suffers significantly from psychological torture as they are exposed to raw or unconcerned torture from their peers at home and school. A survey by Keller that involved 729 child psychiatrists from different parts of the U.S. showed that it costs an average of 50 dollars an hour for a session (141). For an abused child to recover from a condition such as bullying due to their weight, 52 sessions carried out in 7 months are needed. The total cost of such sessions is usually $2600. Indirect costs, including absenteeism from work and school for children, is also a variable in the calculations presented. An individual with a high BMI is likely to have various physical niggles as well as illnesses that deserve sick days off work, medical claims, as well as other related costs such as outsourcing their responsibilities. As indicated by Keller, job absenteeism currently costs the business community in the U.S and the government an estimated $4.3 billion per year (142).

The most susceptible individuals to the adverse effects of obesity are children aged below nineteen years. Obesity is known to cause noteworthy health risks to young lives; furthermore, it causes psychological pressure making the younger generation most vulnerable. Jalilian et al. indicates that American schooling change is the first institutes that need to be changed to engage children in active physical programs. It is estimated that an obese person stands to lose 10% of his or her weight in the instance he or she exercises and burns 200 calories a day annually (65). Losing weight reduces the medical costs by about $2,200 to $5,300 by lowering costs on related health ailments. Additionally, approximately $77 billion direct medical costs can be reduced annually by encouraging consistent exercises amongst the inactive Americans over 15 years of age. Nevertheless, it should be noted that the costs of setting up these playgrounds harm the efficiencies.

Figure 1. Obesity Costs

  Estimated for 2001 Estimated for 2009 Estimated for 2018
Obesity $218 $266 $274
Obesity (women) $3,854 $4,854 $5,892
Obesity Men $2090 $2646  
Obese Men population in West Virginia (above 18) 172,806 228,187 231,549
Obese Women population in West Virginia (above 18) 179,860 237,501 301,265
Direct Medical Cost of obesity $76,881,188 $127,598,512 $134,821,937
Total Cost of obesity $1,054,344,380 $1,762,549,914 $1,937,742,212

Sources; CDC reports for each year.

The state selected medical cost, as well as general costs of obesity for West Virginia, were projected by multiplying the individual costs and the obese adult population. The direct medical costs resulted in $77 million for 2001, $125.5 million for 2009, and $134.2 million in 2018. As indicated by the CDC, obese women pay approximately nine times more, and obese men pay about six times more in associated costs as compared to individuals at a healthy BMI. In general, the women are affected by obesity much more than their male counterparts, thus have higher job-related costs, including lost wages, absenteeism, as well as disability.

The United States is going through a period when a sizable number of the population is struggling with health issues from being overweight or obese. Poor lifestyle habits led to a significant number of individuals to develop habits that have led to increased costs on obesity. These habits include sedentary lifestyles and consuming large quantities of junk foods. The costs of dealing with issues that are related to obesity, such as heart disease, diabetes (type II), as well as blood pressure complications, are high. From the case study, the costs go as high as 8000 dollars. As such, it is imperative for Americans together with the health sector to adopt measures to prevent and reduce cases of obesity in the United States. Indeed, these preventative methods are quite cost-effective. An example of these approaches is exercise.





Works Cited

Finkelstein, Eric A., Olga A. Khavjou, Hope Thompson, Justin G. Trogdon, Liping Pan, Bettylou Sherry, and William Dietz. “Obesity and Severe Obesity Forecasts through 2030.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine 42, no. 6 (2012): 563-570.

Jalilian, Sahar, Rouhollah Rahmatian, Parivash Safa, and Roya Letafati. “The Effects of Educational Tools in Reducing Code-Switching in Child Simultaneous Bilingual Education.” Journal of Education and Learning 5, no. 4 (2016): 306-317.

Keller, Kathleen. Encyclopedia of Obesity: J-Z. Vol. 1. Sage, 2008.

Lehnert, Thomas, Diana Sonntag, Alexander Konnopka, Steffi Riedel-Heller, and Hans-Helmut König. “Economic Costs of Overweight and Obesity.” Best Practice & Research Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 27, no. 2 (2013): 105-115.

Sturm, Roland. “The Effects of Obesity, Smoking, and Drinking On Medical Problems and Costs.” Health Affairs 21.2 (2018): 245-253.