Overweight/Obesity Costs U.S. & Canada $300 Billion a Year

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A new report says the cost of being overweight or obese is staggering -- it costs the United States and Canada a combined $300 billion per year.

The figure for the U.S. alone is $270 billion, with $30 billion for Canada. Since the U.S. has about ten times more people than Canada, the per capita cost is about the same.

According to the Society of Actuaries (SOA), the total cost for both nations breaks down like this:

-- $127 billion: Increased need for medical care
-- $49 billion: Loss of worker productivity due to higher rates of death
-- $43 billion: Loss of productivity due to disability of active workers
-- $72 billion: Loss of productivity due to total disability

"Overweight and obesity have been shown to increase the rate of several common adverse medical conditions, resulting in this extraordinary economic cost to society," study author Don Behan said in a SOA news release.

The bill for obesity alone in the U.S. in 2009 was $198 billion. Overweight people cost the country $72 billion.

People are considered overweight if their body-mass index is between 25 and 29.9. Anything higher is considered obese. 

"We can't stand back and ignore the fact that overweight and obesity are drivers of cost increases and detrimental economic effects. It's time for actuaries, the employer community and the insurance industry to take action and help consumers make smart, healthy decisions," Behan said.

An SOA online survey of 1,000 adults found that 83 percent would be willing to follow a healthy lifestyle program if they received incentives from their health insurance plan.


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