Over the past thirty years, the rate of childhood obesity has tripled to almost twenty percent. Almost two-thirds of US adults are now overweight or obese. Experts blame obesity on changes in the American diet, as well as our increasing tendency to shy away from physical exertion. Aside from the obvious aesthetic issues surrounding obesity, being overweight is also a gateway to a whole host of costly and life-threatening medical issues. Overweight adults are more likely to suffer from diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Obese people will also not live as long as thinner people.
However, there are other, less obvious, costs associated with obesity. George Washington University researchers recently revealed what some of us have been discovering the hard way – both medical bills ($1500 more) and overall cost of living are higher for the obese. Being morbidly obese costs women almost nine times more than just being overweight. Further, the overall costs are almost twice as high for woman than men, toping out at almost $5,000. Although overweight women earn less money than thinner women, there is no similar salary discrepancy between overweight and skinny men.
The study shows that obese individuals lose money in the form of lost wages and having to buy more gas. In fact, almost 1 billion more gallons of gas are needed to transport Americans each year. American adults must also pay more for clothing, air travel, automobiles and furniture. In addition, when researchers attempted to value the lost life that obese people experience, it resulted in additional costs of $8,000 for women and $6500 for men. Employers also pay a large share of the additional costs associated with obesity due to increase cost of medical care, lost productivity, disability, and employee sick days.
Since corporate America spends almost $50 billion annually on health care and work loss for obese employees and their family members, how to “cut the fat” has become a hot-button issue around the company budget table. Some companies offer employee wellness programs; IBM estimates that it saved almost $200 million in health care costs since implementing its wellness program. Other companies offer financial incentives to employees who take part.
Some companies have taken more drastic measures, refusing to open offices or start operations in geographic areas that have abnormally high levels of obesity. A decade ago, no state had an adult obesity rate over 20%. Now, almost forty states claim obesity rates of 25% or more; no state has a rate lower than 18%. Colorado’s obesity rate is the lowest in the nation, at just over 18%. Topping the chart are Louisiana and Mississippi – more than one-third of adults in these two states are obese.