Objective: To estimate the differential impact of obesity on prevalence and medical costs overall and for three major obesity-related complications (diabetes, dyslipidemia, and their joint occurrence) over the life cycle.
Methods: The impact of obesity on age-specific medical costs and diagnosed prevalence was estimated using econometric analyses of the 2001–03 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey data. Obesity was measured using body mass index.
Results: Obesity increases the risks for diabetes and dyslipidemia at all ages. Obesity also increases per person medical costs and the magnitude of the increase is greater at older ages. Although obese individuals represent 49% of the population with diabetes, they are responsible for 56% of total diabetes costs. They also represent 34% of the population with dyslipidemia yet are responsible for 52% of total dyslipidemia costs.
Conclusions: These results highlight the potential savings over the life cycle resulting from effective interventions that target obesity and/or its comorbid disorders. Targeting individuals with both obesity and comorbidities is particularly important given the high medical costs associated with this subset of the obese population. Effective strategies that improve the comorbidity profile of these individuals may have the best chance of showing a positive financial return.