Upside to being fat? You save the medical industry money in the long run.

Or so says a recent Dutch study:

LONDON (AP)—Preventing obesity and smoking can save lives, but it doesn’t save money, researchers reported Monday. It costs more to care for healthy people who live years longer, according to a Dutch study that counters the common perception that preventing obesity would save governments millions of dollars.

“It was a small surprise,” said Pieter van Baal, an economist at the Netherlands’ National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, who led the study. “But it also makes sense. If you live longer, then you cost the health system more.”

Talk about really working hard to find a silver lining in that storm cloud. Smokers, it seems, are in a similar you-die-early-but-cost-less situation:

Van Baal and colleagues created a model to simulate lifetime health costs for three groups of 1,000 people: the “healthy-living” group (thin and non-smoking), obese people, and smokers. The model relied on “cost of illness” data and disease prevalence in the Netherlands in 2003.

The researchers found that from age 20 to 56, obese people racked up the most expensive health costs. But because both the smokers and the obese people died sooner than the healthy group, it cost less to treat them in the long run.

On average, healthy people lived 84 years. Smokers lived about 77 years, and obese people lived about 80 years. Smokers and obese people tended to have more heart disease than the healthy people.

Cancer incidence, except for lung cancer, was the same in all three groups. Obese people had the most diabetes, and healthy people had the most strokes. Ultimately, the thin and healthy group cost the most, about $417,000, from age 20 on.

The cost of care for obese people was $371,000, and for smokers, about $326,000.

“This throws a bucket of cold water onto the idea that obesity is going to cost trillions of dollars,” said Patrick Basham, a professor of health politics at Johns Hopkins University who was unconnected to the study. He said that government projections about obesity costs are frequently based on guesswork, political agendas, and changing science.

“If we’re going to worry about the future of obesity, we should stop worrying about its financial impact,” he said.

I’ve always found the you-fatties-are-going-to-bankrupt-us argument for losing weight to be somewhat less than convincing and this only strengthens that opinion. Which isn’t to say that there aren’t still good reasons to try and lose some weight such as quality of life and just sticking around longer to scream at those damn kids to git the hell offa your lawn! Just know that if you do plan to stick around for as long as possible you’ll still die eventually and probably from something more expensive:

“Lung cancer is a cheap disease to treat because people don’t survive very long,” van Baal said. “But if they are old enough to get Alzheimer’s one day, they may survive longer and cost more.”

The study, paid for by the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports, did not take into account other potential costs of obesity and smoking, such as lost economic productivity or social costs.

“We are not recommending that governments stop trying to prevent obesity,” van Baal said. “But they should do it for the right reasons.”

Arguing that fat folks are costing us all more money isn’t going to cut it though.

7 thoughts on “Upside to being fat? You save the medical industry money in the long run.

  1. That’s BS.  Hypocondriacs and people who get sick a lot cost the big bucks.  Mass might warp space-time, but it shouldn’t warp reason.  IF every obese person who got healthy and didn’t die of a weight related illness got a serious medical condition later, then this theory MIGHT hold water.

    Being able to “cure” any illness, whether it be obesity or lung cancer is saving money.  It allows more money to be focused on the remaining illnesses, and saying anything else is counter-productive

  2. But here is the clincher, at least as far as the economics go:

    The study, paid for by the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports, did not take into account other potential costs of obesity and smoking, such as lost economic productivity or social costs.

    If they didn’t factor in the amount of tax money the various groups paid over their lifetimes, which might well be quite different per capita, then the study doesn’t tell us anything about the costs of obesity and smoking.

    Of course, as Les said, there are other reasons for living as healthy a life as possible.

  3. I agree with sword and Zilch. The study missed a couple things in my opinion make a decent impact financially. Or how about how there are now children under the age of 10 that weigh more than twice that of an average kid in America. At that rate these children are going to experience all the things Obese Adults do but at a younger age. This would increase the cost long term one would think.

  4. I can see the advertisements of the future.  Uncle Sam wants YOU – to start smoking and save the taxpayers money.

  5. If guilt doesn’t work, appeal to their pocketbooks. Fat Phobia is one of the last discriminations on the planet, unless we decide to find something new, like banning dumb blonds or something.

    I’m so tired of the scare tactics that TV news and talk shows, women’s magazines and newspapers are using to get people to loose weight. Weight loss is big business, if we all were successful, they would go out OF business.

    I weigh 300 pounds and basically healthy except for a bad leg injured in a car accident… no heart problems, no diabetes, none of the worries and woes they all like to claim.

    And yet, my 16 year old, thin, active, athletic daughter, who took 5 dance classes a week died from an undiagnosed heart problem that we didn’t know about until after her autopsy.

    My mother is 78, has smoked since she was 14 and is still alive and kicking.

    Seems to me that by all of the claims and health alerts, it should be the other way around.. my mother and I should be the ones who are dead, and my daughter still dancing.

    I’m of a belief that people die when it’s their time, not from illnesses or disease, and those things only enter into the equation as their portal to death.

    The last straw for me was hearing Oprah encourage people who don’t want to lose weight to call in Dr. Oz (who?) for a Dr. Oz intervention.

    So much for freedom.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.