The New York Times

Smokers and the obese cheaper to care for
The New York Times

Preventing obesity and smoking can save lives, but it does not save money, according to a new report.

It costs more to care for healthy people who live years longer, according to a Dutch study that counters the common perception that preventing obesity would save governments millions of dollars.

« It was a small surprise, » said Pieter van Baal, an economist at the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands, who led the study. « But it also makes sense. If you live longer, then you cost the health system more. »

In a paper published online Monday in the Public Library of Science Medicine journal, Dutch researchers found that the health costs of thin and healthy people in adulthood are more expensive than those of either fat people or smokers. The researchers found that from age 20 to 56, obese people racked up the most expensive health costs. But because both the smokers and the obese people died sooner than the healthy group, it cost less to treat them in the long run.

On average, healthy people lived 84 years. Smokers lived about 77 years and obese people lived about 80 years. Smokers and obese people tended to have more heart disease than the healthy people. Ultimately, the thin and healthy group cost the most, about $417,000, from age 20 on. The cost of care for obese people was $371,000, and for smokers, about $326,000.