Increasing BMI Tied to Steady Increase in Health Care Costs

(HealthDay News) – Health care costs increase steadily with increasing body mass index (BMI), with the increase starting at a BMI of 19, according to a study published online Dec. 9 in Obesity.

Truls Østbye, MD, PhD, from Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC, and colleagues used 2001–2011 claims data for employees participating in annual health appraisals to calculate annual paid claims costs. The correlation between BMI and costs was assessed, and comorbidities driving increased costs were identified.

The researchers found that there was a gradual relationship between increasing BMI and increasing health claims costs, which started at a BMI of 19. Over time, there was no notable change in the nature of the relationship. Expressed as percent increase in cost per BMI unit, the most important obesity-related comorbidity was cardiovascular disease (males, 10.53; females, 4.27). The most important driver of pharmacy costs was cardiovascular agents (7.23% increase in cost per BMI unit).

“In contrast to recent evidence for no adverse association between overweight and obesity class 1 and mortality, we observed a gradual increase in health claims costs starting already at the lower end of the recommended BMI range,” write the authors. “Our findings emphasize the importance of preventing workers from ever reaching the overweight and obese class 1 categories, and if already overweight or obese, workplace based and other interventions should be instituted.”

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