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Healthcare costs

Obesity is more expensive to treat than smoking

The report found that healthcare costs associated with obesity and smoking are substantial and increased noticeably during 1998–2011, and vary significantly across gender, race/ethnicity and age

Obesity is more expensive to treat than smoking on an annual basis, according to a report published in Public Health. In addition, the report found that healthcare costs associated with obesity and smoking are substantial and increased noticeably during 1998–2011, and vary significantly across gender, race/ethnicity and age.

To understand the financial impact of obesity and smoking, Dr Ruopeng An, assistant professor of kinesiology and community health at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, analysed data from 125,955 participants in the 1996 to 2010 National Health Interview Surveys. The participants also took part in a subsequent survey on health-related expenses. The study focused solely on health-care expenditures: hospital inpatient and outpatient care, emergency department treatment, physicians' office visits, out-of-pocket expenses, and prescription drug costs.

The researchers found that obesity and smoking were associated with an increase in annual per-capita total healthcare expenses (2011 US$) by $1,360 (95% confidence interval: $1134-$1587) and $,1046 ($846-$1247), out-of-pocket expenses by $143 ($110-$176) and $70 ($37-$104), hospital inpatient expenses by $406 ($283-$529) and $405 ($291-$519), hospital outpatient expenses by $164 ($119-$210) and $95 ($52-$138), office-based medical provider service expenses by $219 ($157-$280) and $117 ($62-$172), emergency room service expenses by $45 ($28-$63) and $57 ($44-$71), and prescription expenses by $439 ($382-$496) and $251 ($199-$302), respectively.

From 1998 to 2011, the estimated per-capita expenses associated with obesity and smoking increased by 25% and 30% for total healthcare, 41% and 48% for office-based medical provider services, 59% and 66% for emergency room services, and 62% and 70% for prescriptions but decreased by 16% and 15% for out-of-pocket health care expenses, 3% and 0.3% for inpatient care, and 6% and 2% for outpatient care, respectively.

Health care expenses associated with obesity and smoking were considerably larger among women, Non-Hispanic whites, and older adults compared with their male, racial/ethnic minority, and younger counterparts.

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