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Excess weight costs $270 billion annually in U.S. Posted: January 19th, 2011

By Maryalene LaPonsie

According to a just-released study from the Society of Actuaries (SOA), the total economic cost of people being overweight or obese was $270 billion in the U.S. in 2009.

``It's time for actuaries, the employer community and the insurance industry to take action and help consumers make smart, healthy decisions," said Don Behan, one of the study's authors, in a statement.

The organization's study considered not only the annual cost of medical care but also the cost of mortality and disability caused by weight, finding that $198 billion in costs can be attributed to obesity in the U.S. and $72 billion can be attributed to costs associated with being overweight.

Obesity is defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than 30, while a BMI between 25 - 29.9 is considered overweight.

Canadians also costly

The study included U.S. and Canada, and found a cumulative total of $300 billion annually can be attributed to overweight and obese individuals.

Annual combined costs for the U.S. and Canada were as follows:

  • $127 billion - total cost for excess medical care
  • $49 billion - loss of productivity caused by excess mortality
  • $43 billion - loss of productivity caused by disability for active workers
  • $72 billion - loss of productivity caused by totally disabled workers

Incentives could help

The SOA said 83 percent of surveyed Americans indicated they would be willing to make healthy lifestyle choices, including participation in health and wellness programs, if provided incentives by their health plan.