10 Flabbergasting Costs of America's Obesity Epidemic

Obesity is costing us big time. Three times more Americans are obese now than were in 1960. Six times more Americans are now extremely obese than a half-century ago. Unfortunately, everyone is paying for this obesity epidemic. How much? Here are 10 flabbergasting numbers related to the costs of obesity.

1. $190 billion -- That's the amount of added medical costs every year that are estimated to stem from obesity-related problems. This total amounts to nearly 21% of total U.S. health care expenditures.  

2. 105% -- According to a study conducted by the Brookings Institution, this is the increased amount that obese Americans pay for prescription drugs compared to individuals who aren't obese.


3. $3.4 billion -- Call this the cost of the laws of physics. Cars burn around 938 million gallons of gasoline per year more than they would if Americans weighed what they did in 1960. At the current average U.S. gasoline cost of $3.64 per gallon, that adds up to $3.4 billion per year. 

4. $164 billion -- The Society of Actuaries estimates that U.S. employers lose this amount in productivity annually due to obesity-related issues with employees. 

5. $6.4 billion -- Every year this amount is estimated to be lost due to employee absenteeism related to obesity

6. $1 billion --  Another laws of physics annual cost. U.S. airlines consume an extra 350 million gallons of fuel per year due to overweight passengers. At an average jet fuel cost of $2.87 per gallon, those dollars add up. 

7. $14.3 billion -- This is how much childhood obesity costs the U.S. each year, according to a published study from the Brookings Institution

8. $62 billion -- Medicare and Medicaid spend nearly this amount every year on obesity-related costs. Of course, this really means that taxpayers spend this amount. 

9. $66 billion -- Columbia University researchers say that if current trends don't change, obesity-related annual medical costs in the U.S. could increase this amount by 2030 -- on top of current expenditures. 

10. $580 billion -- The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation predicts that annual economic productivity loss due to obesity could hit this staggering amount by 2030 unless the current situation changes. 

Tipping the scales
Unfortunately, things are getting worse. Just look at the best state in the U.S. when it comes to obesity. Colorado's adult obesity rate in 1995 was 13.9%. The worst state, Mississippi, had a rate of 19.4%. Fast-forward the clock to today. Colorado is still the best. However, the state's adult obesity rate now stands at 20.7% -- higher than the worst state less than two decades ago.

Is there any good news that could tip the scales in the battle against obesity? Thankfully, yes. Many states have taken action by implementing legislation that could help, including school programs that target better nutrition.

Wellness programs show the potential to reduce obesity -- and they're cost-effective. Studies have found that employers can save up to $6 per person for every $1 spent on these programs. Employees could have ample motivation to participate. Under Obamacare, employers can charge workers up to 50% more for health insurance if they refuse to participate in wellness programs.

Several new drugs could also help in addressing the obesity epidemic. VIVUS currently markets weight-loss pill Qsymia. Arena Pharmaceuticals shouldn't be too far behind. The company received Food and Drug Administration approval for its drug, Belviq, but is awaiting final scheduling by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Contrave, a weight-loss pill from Orexigen Therapeutics , is still in a late-stage clinical study but could hit the market next year if ultimately approved.

Let's hope that these and other solutions make a difference. The costs if they don't are enormous.

Who will win the obesity drug market?
Can VIVUS pick up its lagging sales and fend off the competition, or will Arena Pharmaceuticals reign supreme in the obesity space? If you're in the dark, grab copies of The Motley Fool's premium research reports on VIVUS and Arena Pharmaceuticals to stay up to date. Senior biotech analyst Brian Orelli gives investors the must-know information, including an in-depth look at the obesity market and reasons to buy and sell both stocks. Click now for an exclusive look at Arena and VIVUS -- complete with a full year of free updates -- today.

The article 10 Flabbergasting Costs of America's Obesity Epidemic originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Keith Speights has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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hello artlvr

Too bad Medicare doesn't cover weight-loss drugs. VVUS has had to educate doctors on recognizing obesity as a chronic disease, and also persuade insurers to cover their Qsymia -- which has been working out well, but too slowly for some. An FDA stipulation that the medication must be by mail order, from certain pharmacies rather than available locally, is another hurdle for patients which should eventually be lifted. Given the horrendous costs associated with increasing obesity, it behooves the government to rethink their policy on coverage sooner rather than later...

April 04 2013 at 3:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply