Higher weight, higher health care costs

More than half the adult population in Germany is overweight, and the number of people classified as obese has even increased in recent years. But what economic impact will obesity have on society?

Obesity is the most important risk factor for type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases. Increasing rates of obesity call for tailored preventive and therapeutic strategies. As part of their research, the team of scientists led by DZD Scientists Prof. Rolf Holle and Dr. Christina Teuner from the Institute of Health Economics and Health Care Management (IGM) at the Helmholtz Zentrum München identified the risk groups in which interventions are needed most urgently and are most likely to be cost effective.

In order to place their findings on a solid empirical basis, the scientists compiled the data from a total of five surveys conducted by the KORA (Cooperative Health Research in the Augsburg Region) project. They were thus able to access data from more than 6,700 individuals that were collected between 2004 and 2012.

Using measured weight and height the researchers calculated the Body Mass Index (BMI) and divided the study participants into five groups: Normal Weight (18.5 ≤ BMI <25 kg/m²), Overweight (25 ≤ BMI < 30 kg/m²), Obesity Grade I (30 ≤ BMI < 35 kg/m²), Grade II (35 ≤ BMI < 40 kg/m²) as well as Grade III (BMI ≥ 40 kg/m²). In addition, they collected data on the use of medical services and asked about sick leave days and early retirement.

Significant rise in direct cost of obesity
“Our results show that the direct costs incurred through the use of health care services increase significantly according to the severity of obesity. Compared to the normal weight group, people with Grade II obesity had direct costs which were already 50% higher” explains Prof. Rolf Holle, who also heads the Health Economics core domain in the Competence Network for Obesity. “Indirect costs associated with sick leave days were already significantly higher among overweight people”, he adds. “Up to now, no data has been available for Germany based on accurate BMI measurements, which permits cost analyses to also be differentiated for the higher BMI groups.”

In order to identify further clues regarding targeted prevention, in the future, the scientists will also examine their results according to characteristics such as age, gender, or social status.
Further Information

Original Publication:
Yates, N. (2016): The Economic Burden of Obesity in Germany: Results from the Population Based KORA Studies. Obesity Facts, DOI: 10.1159/000452248