The study also looked at the relationship between obesity and healthcare spending in different groups. "It would also appear the costs associated with obesity become more pronounced as you get older, particularly after age 55," says Wee.
The finding differs from that of an earlier study suggesting that the impact of obesity on healthcare cost may lessen in older adults and may predict a precipitous rise in healthcare cost as the population ages.
The study examined data collected by the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey funded by the Agency for Healthcare Reform and Quality. Respondents completed a calendar and kept track of all health care use. Healthcare spending reported in the study included all spending accrued for "conventional" care including "out of-pocket" expenditures but did not include the cost of complementary and alternative medical care such as acupuncture. Researchers analyzed the data among adults in six BMI categories, with normal weight individuals as a reference point.
The study found the relative increase in weight-related health care spending was similar for men and women but varied substantially according to age and race. The strongest associations between obesity and spending were found among whites and older adults, while BMI was not associated with health care spending among black adults and people under the age of 35.
Researchers found higher costs associated with BMI occurred across all major categories of care, with hospitalization being the single largest source of expenditures. But the study also found the largest relative rise in costs related to prescription medications, suggesting that obesity may be accelerating the rise of drug costs in the United States.
Among whites, higher BMI was associated with higher costs for inpatient stays, office visits and medications. For blacks and Hispanics, the higher costs were not associated with inpatie
Contact: Jerry Berger
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center