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Obesity costs economy heavily, actuaries say
By Insure.com staff

Obesity and health problems associated with being overweight cost the U.S. economy $270 billion in 2009, according to a new study released by the Society of Actuaries. Costs stem from an increased need for medical care and loss of economic productivity due to early death and disability.

"There is substantial evidence that overweight and obesity are becoming worldwide epidemics, and are having negative impacts on health and mortality," said actuary Don Behan, FSA, FCA, MAAA and independent consulting actuary, in a statement. "As actuaries, we are working with the insurance industry to help incentivize consumers through their health plan design to focus on health and wellness, which will hopefully help curb the weight and health problems we face today."

Obesity is defined as a body mass index of 30 or more, and overweight is a BMI of 25 to 29.9.

The weighty cost of weight

In 2009, obesity cost $198 billion, and problems associated with being overweight cost $72 billion in the United States, according to the Society of Actuaries.

A breakdown of costs included:

• $127 billion in excess medical care

• $72 billion for loss of productivity from totally disabled workers

• $49 billion for economic loss of productivity from higher death rates

• $43 billion for loss of productivity caused by disability

According to the study, 83 percent of consumers would be willing to participate in a health and wellness program or make other lifestyle changes to improve their health if provided incentives through their health insurance plan.



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