Obese adults who lose weight save money, Johns Hopkins study finds

WASHINGTON — It’s never too late to benefit from becoming a healthy weight: Researchers find it can save you money no matter what your age.

For example, 50-year-olds who go from obese to simply overweight save an average of $36,278 over a lifetime, according to the executive director of the Global Obesity Prevention Center at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“There’s no time in which you say … we’re past the time of cost savings, or it’s not going to make a difference,” said Dr. Bruce Y. Lee. “But the highest saving is if you’re around 50 years old.”

Lee and his team base the calculations on factors such as medical costs to health care facilities and insurance companies, sick days, employees not working at full capacity and other productivity losses that include an early death.

“What are the costs associated with those things and how much time off from work are you going to miss and how early are you going to potentially pass away?” Lee said. Those are the major categories used in the calculations.

Health conditions and chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer are associated with obesity.

The calculation findings suggest someone who is 20 years old would save, on average, $17,655 in direct medical costs and productivity losses over their lifetime by going from obese to overweight. If that same person were to lose enough to be a healthy weight, savings in direct medical costs and productivity would average $28,020.

Helping a 40-year-old go from being obese to overweight can save $18,262 on average.

Obesity-related productivity losses affect businesses, which, in turn, affects the economy, Lee said.

And on a personal level, it can impact you even if you’re not overweight by contributing to insurance premiums, higher copays, other out-of-pocket expenses and higher taxes to support government insurance.

The study findings were published Tuesday online in the journal “Obesity.”

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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