Background: Obesity is an established risk factor for several chronic diseases. The lifetime health and economic consequences of obesity for individual patients have not been documented. Objective: To estimate the lifetime health and economic consequences of obesity. Methods: We developed a dynamic model of the relationship between body mass index and the risks and associated costs of 5 obesity-related diseases: hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, type 2 diabetes mellitus, coronary heart disease, and stroke. The model was estimated using data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the Framingham Heart Study, and other secondary sources. We used this model to estimate (1) risks of hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and type 2 diabetes mellitus at future ages; (2) lifetime risks of coronary heart disease and stroke; (3) life expectancy; and (4) expected lifetime medical care costs of these 5 diseases for men and women aged 35 to 64 years with body mass indexes of 22.5, 27.5, 32.5, and 37.5 kg/m2 (nonobese and mildly, moderately, and severely obese, respectively). Results: Disease risks and costs increase substantially with increased body mass index. The risk of hypertension for moderately obese 45- to 54-year-old men, for example, is roughly 2-fold higher than for their nonobese peers (38.1% vs 17.7%), whereas the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus is almost 3-fold higher (8.1% vs 3.0%). Lifetime risks of coronary heart disease and stroke are similarly elevated (41.8% vs 34.9% and 16.2% vs 13.9%, respectively), whereas life expectancy is reduced by 1 year (26.5 vs 27.5 years). Total discounted lifetime medical care costs for the treatment of these 5 diseases are estimated to differ by $10 000 ($29 600 vs $19 600). Similar results were obtained for women. Conclusions: The lifetime health and economic consequences of obesity are substantial and suggest that efforts to prevent or reduce this problem might yield significant benefits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2177-2183
Number of pages7
JournalArchives of internal medicine
Issue number18
StatePublished - Oct 11 1999


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