Unhealthy Lifestyles Costly

February 27, 2004
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LANSING — A new study further links problems associated with unhealthy lifestyles with rising health care costs.

The study, conducted by the Ann Arbor-based research firm Altarum on behalf of the Michigan Economic Development Corp., concludes that overweight and obese persons can expect to incur $1,500 in additional medical costs a year because of health problems associated with their conditions.

“This study makes it official: Too many Michigan residents weigh too much, smoke too much, and don’t exercise enough — all of which contribute to making Michigan among the least healthy states in the nation,” MEDC President and CEO Don Jakeway said. “We need to educate more of our residents about the direct relationship between their own health, bottom-line health care costs and the number of jobs available.”

The study found that Michigan, when compared to 17 benchmark states, has the highest rates of death from coronary heart disease, ranks second for obesity and diabetes, and ranks sixth for smoking.

David Hollister, director of the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth, hopes the study will spur community-based initiatives to encourage walking, weight reduction and help smokers quit. Such initiatives can “pay off in a big way by sending a positive signal to potential employers,” he said.

“Communities need to understand that companies may take one look at a locality with less than favorable health statistics and be scared off by the potential impact on their bottom line,” Hollister said. “Physical health and economic health go hand in hand.”

The MEDC commissioned the study, released on Thursday, as part of a broader effort to gauge the link between health-care costs and the state’s economic condition. The state will use the results of the broader analysis to develop strategies to begin attacking the escalating costs of heath care, Jakeway said.

In Michigan, the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness, Health and Sports last May reported the results of a separate analysis that estimated the cost of physical inactivity by state residents at $8.9 billion annually. Under current trends, that cost will rise 42 percent to $12.65 billion by 2007. Costs include direct and indirect medical care, worker’s compensation and lost productivity in the workplace.

Nationally, medical expenditures related to obesity and being overweight are as high as $93 billion, or 9.1 percent of all health care expenses in the United States — a figure that now rivals the costs of smoking, according to researchers whose findings were published in the May 2003 issue of Health Affairs, a national health care journal.           

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