Reported Costs Of Obesity

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There are a large number of obesity cost or burden of illness studies. Table 1 gives a summary of those recently published from a variety of different countries and continents. The range of direct costs reported is between US$77 million for New Zealand (14), a country in which the prevalence of obesity is now 19%, and US$70 billion in the United States (15), where the prevalence of obesity is some 25% of the adult population. Recently it has been suggested that the direct cost of obesity in Australia is now US$630 million (S. Crowley, personal communication). The differences in costs reported may reflect different obesity prevalence in the various countries or different absolute health costs in the treatment of obesity and its related diseases. More likely, however, are differences in the methodology of performing the study. Some of these differences (e.g., the body mass index [BMI] cut point used, the diseases included in the costs) will be discussed in the following section.

As a general comment, it appears that the direct cost of obesity in many countries is between 1% and 5% of their health care budget (16). It appears that this cost may be greater in the United States [most recently reported to be 7% of the health care expenditure (15)]. We note that these costs are likely conservative as the

Table 1 Recently Reported Costs of Obesity from Several Countries3


Year (Ref.)

Type of cost


% Health care expenditure

United States

1995 (4)


US$ 70 billion

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