Obesity and people with disabilities: The implications for health care expenditures


  • Disclosure: The authors have no conflict of interest

  • Funding agencies: This study was supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) [Contract # 200-2007-22644, Task # 05]. The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Author contributions: WA, JW and BA conceived the research design. WA and GK analyzed the data. All authors were involved in writing the article and had final approval of the submitted and published versions.



This study estimates additional average health care expenditures for overweight and obesity for adults with disabilities vs. without.

Design and Methods

Descriptive and multivariate methods were used to estimate additional health expenditures by service type, age group, and payer using 2004–2007 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey data.


In 2007, 37% of community-dwelling Americans with disabilities were obese vs. 27% of the total population. People with disabilities had almost three times ($2,459) the additional average obesity cost of people without disabilities ($889). Prescription drug expenditures for obese people with disabilities were three times as high and outpatient expenditures were 74% higher. People with disabilities in the 45- to 64-year age group had the highest obesity expenditures. Medicare had the highest additional average obesity expenditures among payers. Among people with prescription drug expenditures, obese people with disabilities had nine times the prevalence of diabetes as normal weight people with disabilities. Overweight people with and without disabilities had lower expenditures than normal-weight people with and without disabilities.


Obesity results in substantial additional health care expenditures for people with disabilities. These additional expenditures pose a serious current and future problem, given the potential for higher obesity prevalence in the coming decade.