What Are the Financial Costs of Obesity?

With costs on the rise everywhere we look, many of us are looking closely at our health investments. Like anything else we invest in, we have limited dollars to put into our health, and we want to make them count.

If you or a loved one are obese right now, you might be wondering about the financial costs of obesity. You may be asking yourself questions like “Is it worth it to invest in a weight loss program?”.

In this article I’ll outline major direct and indirect financial costs of obesity, and also explore some of the “soft costs”. At the end, I’ll share some great ways you can invest in your health and weight loss, several of them cost-free.

What is Obesity?

Obesity in adults is defined as a BMI of greater than or equal to 30, while severe obesity is defined as a BMI of greater than or equal to 40.

The CDC and other medical organizations use Body Mass Index (BMI) to determine obesity. BMI is simply a calculation of your weight in kilograms divided by your height in meters squared. Obesity in adults is defined as a BMI of greater than or equal to 30, while severe obesity is defined as a BMI of greater than or equal to 40.


BMI = weight (kg) / [height (m)]2


BMI = 703 x weight (lbs) / [height (in)]2

Calculate your BMI

As of the CDC’s most recent data from 2018, over 42% of American adults were obese. This shows a big increase from the previous data in 2000, when just over 30% were obese. In that same time period prevalence of severe obesity increased from 4.7% to 9.2%.

Financial Costs of Obesity

Along with the prevalence of obesity, the financial costs of obesity have also increased in recent years. A popular study published in March 2021 found that obesity-related medical expenditures in the United States add up to over $172 billion each year.

This translates to an average of $1,861 in additional medical expenses for an obese adult per year, and $3,097 for a severely obese adult. Specifically, the study found that beyond 30 units of BMI, each one-unit BMI increase was associated with an additional cost of $253.

Major Direct Medical Costs Linked to Obesity

Along with the average financial costs of obesity, it’s also worthwhile to look at some specific major medical costs related to obesity.

  1. Knee and Hip Replacements
    The average price for a hip replacement in the U.S. was over $39,000 in 2020.
  2. Type-2 Diabetes
    Average health care costs are 2.3x greater for Americans with diabetes compared to those without.
  3. High Cholesterol
    High Cholesterol is the biggest risk factor for heart disease, and comes with a host of extra medical expenses.
  4. Heart Disease
    Heart disease is still the leading cause of death among American adults, and one of the most expensive conditions to treat according to data from the American Heart Association. The cost of a heart attack can range from $10,000 to over $100,000 depending on a number of factors.
  5. High Blood Pressure
    Research shows that the average cost for 30 tablets of a typical dose of blood pressure medication is about $329. See this list of common medications and costs.
  6. Fatty Liver Disease
    Liver disease is on the rise in the U.S., along with associated medical costs. Even based on the data from 2011-2014, medical costs with insurance averaged $7,804 for a new diagnosis and $3,789 for long-term management.

Conditions like these can also lead to higher insurance premiums, and challenges when shopping for things like life insurance.

Indirect Costs of Obesity

In addition to the hard medical costs above, obesity also comes with costs like loss of work income during medical procedures and diminished productivity due to lack of focus, energy, and clarity.

Finally, there is the emotional toll of carrying excess weight. This is the most difficult to quantify, but for some, it’s the biggest cost of all.

Best Ways to Invest in Your Weight Loss

Now, the good news. As we saw from the CDC data earlier in this article, even incremental reductions in BMI lead to better health and add up to significant cost savings.

And, many of the best ways to lose weight don’t cost a dime.

For example, one of the first things we ask new patients to do is simply stay hydrated. Water is a powerful tonic for weight loss and wellness.

Committing to daily exercise is another cost-free way to lose weight and stay healthy. It doesn’t need to be long or vigorous, gentle exercise can be plenty.

Most important of all is nutrition. Favor whole foods that are high in protein and low in sugar, and eat organic as much as possible.

12-Week Weight Loss Program

For less than the cost of treating one of the conditions above, you can join our Awakening treatment program. In this supervised medical weight loss program, our doctors and providers work side-by-side with patients for twelve weeks to uncover, understand, and address the causes of weight gain. The program includes a complete nutrition plan, weekly visits, off-hours support, supplements, weight loss medication, lifestyle coaching, and more. Most patients release 35-40 pounds throughout the twelve weeks. Patients with more weight to release may choose to complete multiple rounds of the program until they’ve reached their goal weight.

“After losing 10 lbs on my own, I was stuck. Dr. Lara’s staff welcomed me with open arms. Now after a lot of hard work, I'm down 80 lbs.”

~ Jeff F.

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