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Obesity and smoking cost U.S. half-trillion dollars annually

Staff Writer | September 9, 2016
According to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, the obesity rate among American adults is 28%, while diabetes tops 11%.
Living in America   The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index
Nearly one in five smoke, two in five experience significant daily stress, and almost half do not exercise for 30 minutes or more at least three days per week. And several of these indicators have remained unchanged or have worsened since 2008.

The implications of these results are very real - and are significant for the U.S. economy. Adults who are overweight accumulate about $378 more per person each year in healthcare costs, while those who are obese cost an astonishing $1,580 more per person each year.

Taken together, above-normal-weight adults in the U.S. add more than $142 billion each year in incremental healthcare costs.

Smoking, in turn, is even more costly per person. Adults who smoke accrue, on average, $2,132 more each year in healthcare costs than nonsmokers, adding another $92 billion. And together, overweight or obese Americans who smoke add an astonishing $235 billion in unnecessary healthcare costs each year.

Obesity and smoking degrade employees' health, elevating unplanned absenteeism in the workplace and reducing overall productivity.

Assuming that every eight hours of unplanned missed work costs $344 in lost productivity, the combination of obesity and smoking among U.S. workers causes an estimated $257 billion of lost economic activity each year.

So, coupled together - and limiting the analysis only to unnecessary healthcare costs and incremental unplanned absences - obesity and smoking are needlessly costing the U.S. economy nearly a half-trillion dollars annually.