How Much Does Obesity Really Cost You?

October 3, 2018

blog_investyourselfMost articles about obesity rightfully focus on its physical and emotional aspects, but often overlook the very real impact it has on personal finances. If costs are addressed at all, it’s mainly in terms of total numbers across large segments of the population. Policymakers and corporate enterprises need to keep track of these statistics for planning and management purposes, but if you are struggling with your weight, have you taken a closer look at what obesity might be costing you?

Some costs are to be expected, but others may surprise you.

Medical Expenses

According to a 2015 Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 25 percent of American adults struggle to keep up with medical bills, leading to nearly 1 million households to declare bankruptcy. The costs span a range of various medical issues, but managing chronic conditions, especially Type 2 Diabetes, ranks high on the list of medical cost burden.

As a chronic disease in itself, you would expect medical expenses to be high, but maybe not quite this extreme. One study by Emory University estimated that a man with obesity will spend approximately $190,000 more in health care costs than a healthy one throughout a lifetime, while a woman with obesity will spend about $230,000 more. Because obesity is linked to 59 other chronic conditions, you are at a greater risk to have high medical bills if you are suffering from obesity. According to the CDC, the medical care costs of obesity in the United States in 2008 dollars were estimated to be $147 billion. If you are suffering from obesity, that’s an additional $1,000+ you are spending on medical costs alone.


Food and Clothing

The human body regulates energy, both intake and output. At rest, a heaver body will naturally burn more calories than one with a lower weight (measured by your resting metabolic rate). To maintain an even balance of energy input and expenditure, this technically means those carrying extra weight must consume more calories than those of a lower weight. According to a study by the McKinsey & Company, additional food costs about $90 million dollars per year for overweight and obese individuals, or approximately $510 per person.

If you’re suffering from obesity, you most likely require larger clothing sizes, which uses more fabric to make. This increases the cost of production, which results in clothing companies driving up the prices of plus-sized clothing. A 2015 study estimated that people suffering from obesity spend an extra $30 billion a year, or $270 per person, on clothing.

Combining food and clothing, you might be spending an additional $780 coming out of your pocket due to carrying extra weight.


Carrying extra weight might be costing you in the workplace. According to a 2011 Vanderbilt study, women who carry extra weight have a harder time finding jobs and earn less compared to their healthy-weight counterparts. On average, a woman carrying just 13 excess pounds earned less than $9,000 than a woman at a healthy weight. While the loss of income isn’t as extreme in men, there is still a significant difference in income levels between men suffering from obesity and those of a healthy weight.

Furthermore, employers have been found to be less likely to hire you if you are suffering from obesity because the disease is associated with higher absentee days, increased medical leaves, and lower productivity. A study conducted by Duke University for the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine revealed the total cost to employers of full-time employees suffering from obesity to be $73.1 billion. This staggering number comes out to over $800 per employee per year.

These employer practices may not be fair and in some cases discriminatory, but it is what has been measured in reality in the marketplace.


When it comes to transportation, people suffering from obesity often need to spend more for gasoline for transportation and flights.

As automobile manufacturers strive to make cars more fuel efficient to save you money, the heavier weight of passengers is countering these advancements. According to a 2010 Consumer Report the increasing weight of American drivers ups our consumption of gas by 1 billion gallons a year. The U.S. Department of Energy also found that for every additional 100 pounds placed in a car, the vehicle’s fuel efficiency is decreased by up to 2 percent. While 2 percent doesn’t seem like much, it can add up, especially if you are driving every day. As the use of automobiles and the rate of obesity continue to increase, the cost of automotive travel will continue to rise as well.

This also may impact you when traveling by air. One study by the International Journal of Transportation Research estimated that U.S. airlines purchased 350 million more gallons of jet fuel because of the number of heavier passengers. They then increase the prices of tickets to offset these costs, so all passengers are paying more. In addition, if you have a body mass that does not comfortably fit into a standard airline seat, air carriers may require you to purchase an extra ticket. If you fly frequently, this can truly take a major hit to your wallet.


The bottom line is that losing weight will not only improve your health and quality of life, but may have a significant impact on your personal finances as well. That’s why it is important to invest in yourself because you are your most valuable asset. When you are in balance physically, emotionally, and financially, the world opens up like never before. Get the return on life that you deserve.

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