Lifetime costs of obesity in childhood are growing
In this systematic review published in Paediatric Obesity, the authors sought to establish the costs of childhood and adolescent obesity in terms of direct healthcare costs as well as indirect productivity costs. Direct costs include drug costs, hospital in-patient costs, hospital outpatient costs and primary care costs. Indirect costs are divided into costs to society because of workdays lost and income penalty. Lost workdays accumulates the days lost to morbidity, early-retirement and mortality, whereas income penalty tries to assess how being overweight or obese may result in lower salary level.
Using 13 published research articles, they were able to work out that the average total cost was €149,206 for boys and €148,196 for girls. When this number was further broken down, it was found that lifetime cost was proportional to BMI, with lifetime costs increasing in proportion with excess weight during childhood or adolescence. It also found that productivity costs are significantly greater than healthcare costs, with girls being more likely to suffer increased healthcare costs and income penalties, and boys more likely to have increased work days lost.
An erroneous picture of the true cost obesity is created by studies which only focus on the direct costs of obesity. This study admits that the average figure, in the region of €150,000, is probably an underestimate due to the numerous costs which cannot be captured. This indicates a need for further research into the total excess lifetime costs of childhood and adolescent overweight and obesity, as only when this is properly evaluated can public health officials begin to allocate adequate resources.