America's Obesity Crisis: The Health and Economic Costs of Excess Weight
By Hugh Waters and Marlon Graf
This study calculates the prevalence and economic effects of diseases related to obesity and overweight in the United States. These costs are paid by individuals and their households, employers, government, and society.
The prevalence of obesity in the U.S. population has increased steadily since the 1960s—from 3.4 percent of adults in 1962 to 39.8 percent in 2016, the year of the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. In all, 180.5 million people—or 60.7 percent of the population ages 2 and over—were either obese or overweight.
In 2016, ~100.3 million U.S. residents had obesity and another ~80.2 million were overweight.
The burden of obesity, and the chronic diseases for which it is a contributing factor, has reached record economic heights.
- In 2016, chronic diseases driven by the risk factor of obesity and overweight accounted for $480.7 billion in direct health care costs in the U.S., with an additional $1.24 trillion in indirect costs due to lost economic productivity.
- The total cost of chronic diseases due to obesity and overweight was $1.72 trillion—equivalent to 9.3 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP).
- Obesity as a risk factor is by far the greatest contributor to the burden of chronic diseases in the U.S., accounting for 47.1 percent of the total cost of chronic diseases nationwide.