How Much Does Obesity Contribute To Health Spending?

The Congressional Budget Office has released a new issue brief estimating how much obesity-related diseases contribute to health care costs and what policymakers will face in the future if they don’t address the epidemic. According to the CBO, “health care spending per adult grew substantially in all weight categories between 1987 and 2007, but the rate of growth was much more rapid among the obese. Spending per capita for obese adults exceeded spending for adults of normal weight by about 8 percent in 1987 and by about 38 percent in 2007”:

As one might expect, spending on the obesity-related conditions CBO identified is generally higher for heavier adults, but normal-weight adults also develop those conditions reflecting the fact that obesity is only one of the risk factors associated with those conditions. For example, spending in 2007 on obesity-related diseases averaged $2,030 for obese adults and $1,090 for normal-weight adults, a difference of $940. Therefore, spending on the obesity-related diseases CBO considered accounts for about 60 percent of the $1,530 difference in total spending on health care per capita between normal- weight and obese adults in that year.




The office estimates that if the obesity trend remained unchanged, costs would increase somewhere between $7,550 and $7,760 per adult in 2020 (from $4,550 in 2007). Should the distribution of body weight revert back to 1987 levels, however “projected spending per capita would be $7,230 per capita” — stil higher than today, but increasing slower.