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A new report from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health suggests
that people who are overweight or obese could potentially trade weight for cash.

Authors of the report produced a model linking body mass index, health outcomes and associated costs at various points in an adult’s life. For example, for a 40-year-old, having obesity (vs. normal weight) adds $15,024 in lifetime third-party payer costs, $16,400 in lifetime productivity losses and $31,447 in societal costs. For a person of that age, being overweight (vs. normal weight) adds $5,542 in lifetime third-party payers costs, $7,651 in productivity losses and $13,185 in societal costs.

“Although numerous studies have shown that patients with obesity or overweight have higher risk of various health outcomes, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer, various decision-makers could benefit from a better understanding of the specific health effects and costs associated with increased or decreased BMI,” the researchers said.

From an employer’s perspective, for example, understanding obesity-related productivity losses could inspire investment in workplace health and wellness programs. And those with obesity and overweight might be more motivated to drop pounds if they understood how the extra weight was affecting them financially.

This information is useful to fitness professionals, says the lead researcher, Bruce Y. Lee, MD, associate professor of international health at Johns Hopkins.

He notes, “These numbers help fitness professionals quantify the value of exercise and [of] achieving and maintaining a healthy weight and, in turn, [quantify] how much communities should invest in fitness. It is one thing to say that achieving a healthy weight is good. It is another thing to show the actual cost savings. This helps show how people and communities may want to prioritize physical fitness compared to other competing investments.”

This study was published in Obesity (2017; 25 [10], 1809–15).

Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor, and IDEA's director of event programming.

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