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Obese People Have Shorter Lives and Spend More On Medical Bills, Study



Despite having short lifespans, obese people have higher medical expenses than normal people, researchers say. According to the results of a study recently published in BMJ Open, excess weight has a negative effect on finances and quality of life. Such findings suggest that people whom are able to bring their weight under control may improve their quality of life and reduce weight-related medical bills.

Scientists came to their conclusion after observing more than 40,000 obese, overweight, underweight and normal weight middle-aged to elderly men and women in a study designed to ascertain links between body mass index, lifetime medical expenditures and life expectancy.

In order to find the answer, Masato Naagai from the Division of Epidemiology at Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine, led a team which obtained medical data from 20,066 Japanese men and Japanese 21,899 (total 41,965) aged 40 - 79 years whom participated in the Ohsaki National Health Insurance (NIH) Cohort Study.

To aid in the experiment which began in 1995, Naagai and colleagues used data from survival and total medical care costs for each participant. The team then followed the participants for 13 years during which time 3356 male and 1803 female volunteers (5159 total) died. When researchers examined mortality and medical expenditures, they learned that:

  • from 40 years of age onward, the life expectancy of obese men was 1.7 years less than normal weight men 
  • the life expectancy of obese women from 40 years of age onward was 3.1 years less than women of normal weight
  • lifetime medical expenses of obese men was 14.7 % higher than normal weight men
  • lifetime medical costs of obese women was 21.6% greater than normal weight women

Most surprisingly, overweight men and women lived longer than any of the other groups studied. For example, the life expectancy of overweight men was 44.34 years compared to 43.03 years for normal weight male participants (the shortest life expectancy, 37.40 years, was found in underweight men).

Researchers also learned that lifetime medical expenses of underweight men and women was 5.2% and 3.4% lower than normal weight participants. Naagai's team speculated the lower costs for this group could be attributed to these individuals' shorter life expectancy.

Naagai observed that despite the fact obese participants who smoked lived 3.5 years less than obese non-smokers, the medical expenses of the former were much higher. They attributed the differences to the effects that smoking have on longevity and health.


Obesity Linked To Shorter Lives And Higher Bills

Naagai's team, upon comparing the outcomes for all groups concluded that despite shorter life expectancies, obese people will spend more on medical bills. Japanese researchers then recommended: "With better weight control, more people would enjoy their longevity with lower needs and demands for medical care."

Some people might be scratching their heads when they read that underweight people would have shorter lifespans than normal weight people but there could be a plausible explanation for this. 

In 2002, researchers from Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine and Japan's National Cancer Center Research Institute, published their findings on mortality for overweight and underweight Japanese.

Those scientists observed significant rates of stomach and liver cancer mortality among their underweight participants.

It's important to know the study published in 2002 involved 40,815 Japanese men and women - a population size similar to the current study.

Moreover, they reached a conclusion similar to Naagai's team in that overweight and underweight people are at risk for increased mortality compared to normal weight people.

For Americans, Naagi's study is of particular importance. America is currently in the grip of an obesity epidemic; now we have further evidence that obesity not only impacts our quality of life, but could lead to lifetime of higher medical bills.

Now that you're armed with additional facts about obesity, what you do with this knowledge is up to you.


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Article Sources 

Nagai, M., Kuriyama, S., Kakizaki, M., Ohmori-Matsuda, K., Sone, T., Hozawa, A., Kawado, M., Hashimoto, S., & Tsuji, I. (2012). Impact of obesity, overweight and underweight on life expectancy and lifetime medical expenditures: the Ohsaki Cohort Study BMJ Open, 2 (3) DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2012-000940

Tsugane S, Sasaki S, & Tsubono Y (2002). Under- and overweight impact on mortality among middle-aged Japanese men and women: a 10-y follow-up of JPHC study cohort I. International journal of obesity and related metabolic disorders : journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 26 (4), 529-37 PMID: 12075580


"Obese People Have Shorter Lives and Spend More On Medical Bills, Study" copyright 2012 Living Fit, Healthy and Happy(SM). All Rights Reserved.



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