The Costs of Being Fat, in Actual Dollars

The obesity epidemic in the United States has become so severe that First Lady Michelle Obama had to create the Let’s Move! program to stem childhood obesity. The consequences of obesity on health are obvious, but the impacts of the epidemic extend even into personal finance and work. Take a look at our chart of the costs of obesity for each gender.

The graphic above breaks down the costs of obesity by composition, with each composition having a distinct color. Each gender is represented by its respective sex symbol. The data were collected from a comprehensive study on the costs of obesity from George Washington University.

There are several compositions that are equal or near-equal between the two genders. The researchers found that obesity adds excess medical costs equally across both genders. At the same time, life insurance costs for the obese are also equal for both genders. While the study found that the medical costs were equal among both genders, many other costs vary between obese men and women.

The biggest difference in obesity costs between men and women come in the form of wages. Research has found that there is a connection between obesity and lower wages for female employees. Obese female employees earn relatively less compared to normal-weight female employees. Male employees who are obese do not receive relatively lower wages, according to the research. The result is $1,855 in added costs for obese women. However, the research paper notes “…accurately estimating the casual relationship between wages and weight cohorts is problematic, as the direction of the relationship has not been conclusively determined.”

The other biggest difference between obesity costs for men and women are in the composition absenteeism. The researchers found that obese male employees miss an additional two days of work annually due to illness related to obesity. Obese female employees miss between an extra one and five work days per year. Overweight and moderately obese male employees did not see incremental costs due to missing work, while female employees in the same two categories saw increased costs due to missed work. The largest incremental cost for both men and women in this composition was for the severely obese. Both morbidly obese (higher than severely obese) male and female employees saw added costs due to missed work from obesity related illness, but less than the costs for the severely obese.
While additional medical bills play a major role in added costs for both obese men and women, there are other many other areas where the obese have additional costs. In particular, sickness due to obesity related illness and lowered productivity leads to added costs. Obese female employees may receive lower wages, but additional research must be done to be sure.

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Source: Himmelfarb Health Sciences Library, The George Washington University

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