News Flash: Study Finds Obesity Costs Women More

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I don’t know why this is news, either, but someone keeps funding all this research, so we might as well have a little fun with it. See if you can guess the correct answer:

Question: What is the main reason being obese is more expensive for women than men? Is the answer:

A. Obese women have more medical problems, and therefore more medical expenses than obese men.


B. Women earn less, and therefore have less to spend on obesity-related expenses.

C. Contrary to popular belief, obese women consume more than obese men, and have more food-related costs.

The correct answer is B, according to researchers at George Washington University, who claim theirs is the first report to calculate the economic toll obesity takes on individual people. The authors concluded that the individual cost of being obese is $4,879 and $2,646 for women and men respectively, and adding the value of lost life to these annual costs produces even more dramatic results: $8,365 and $6,518 annually for women and men, respectively.

The study found that costs are nine times higher for women and six times higher for men who are obese, which is defined as an individual with a Body Mass Index (BMI) more than 30, than for an overweight person, which is defined as someone with a BMI between 25-29.  The findings also reveal a significant difference between the impact of obesity on men and women when it comes to job-related costs, including lost wages, absenteeism and disability.


This is a bit unsettling: Based on a median annual wage for women of $32,450 in 2009, the report found that obese women who work full time earn $1,855 less annually than non-obese women, a 6 percent reduction. By contrast, studies have found that the wages of obese men are not significantly different from those of normal-weight men. The study director suggests weight discrimination plays a role.

Right now, health care costs are now estimated at $147 billion annually, representing nearly 10 percent of all U.S. medical expenses.  By 2030, the health care costs attributable to the overweight and obese could account for up to 16 to 18 percent of total U.S. health care costs.  


If you’re looking for a little light reading for the weekend – yes, I’m being sarcastic – a copy of the full report titled, “A Heavy Burden: The Individual Costs of Being Overweight and Obese in the United States” is available at:

When your self-worth goes up, your net worth goes up with it. ~  Mark Victor Hansen


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Leslie J. Ansley is an award-winning journalist and entrepreneur who blogs daily for TheRoot. She lives in Raleigh, NC.

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