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April 18, 2012

What costs more: Obesity or smoking? Mayo Clinic says obesity

Daily Briefing

Both obesity and smoking contribute to higher individual health costs, but obesity brings more additional spending, according to a new study by Mayo Clinic researchers.

Writing in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, researchers analyzed data from more than 30,000 Mayo Clinic employees and retirees who had continuous health insurance coverage between 2001 and 2007 to identify the additional health costs of smoking and obesity.

Although both obesity and smoking were associated with additional costs, the researchers found that health costs for obese workers were higher than smokers. The average annual health costs for smokers were $1,275 more than nonsmokers, while obese workers cost $1,850 more than non-obese workers.

Additionally, the cost increased to $5,500 more per year for morbidly obese workers than non-obese workers.

The researchers noted that the added costs for obesity diminished after accounting for other health problems affecting that population. However, they warn against using that finding to underestimate obesity's "true incremental costs," since obesity is a risk factor for developing chronic conditions (Moriarty, et al., Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, March 2012 [subscription required]; Preidt, Health Day, 4/13; Science Daily, 4/3).

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