Study Shows Unhealthy Lifestyles Cost NC $57B

Posted on Dec 08, 2008

The Daily Reflector out of Greenville, North Carolina reported on a new study showing that the unhealthy lifestyles of many people in North Carolina cost the state over $57 billion a year in preventable medical expenses, workers' compensation claims, missed work, and lost productivity. The study, conducted by Be Active North Carolina, also states that the annual losses to North Carolina's economy will only get worse without attention, with estimated figures rising to more than $75 billion annually in 2011.

President and chief executive officer of Be Active North Carolina Ben Blankenship said that the way to fix this problem and save the state money is to prioritize healthy behavior - which hasn't happened yet. "The culture starts at home," Blankenship said. "There needs to be some partnership between parents and their children."

The report cites a number of risk factors known to be precursors of chronic illness and other unhealthy conditions:

  • Excess weight
  • Physical inactivity
  • Type II diabetes
  • Low dietary consumption of fruits and vegetables
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • High cholesterol
  • Depression
  • Smoking or tobacco use

These conditions will cost both employers and insurers the most money - with an overweight adult incurring $250,000 in lost productivity costs in the span of their careers and 115 hours of lost work each year. Insurance companies also feel the blow of unhealthy lifestyles, with 3 out of 4 prescriptions written in North Carolina treating illness or disorders linked to obesity or unhealthy living.

More than one third of North Carolina youth are classified as overweight. The study shows that even if 3% of inactive people in the state changed their lifestyle, North Carolina would save $3 billion a year in avoidable medical conditions, insurance, workers' compensation, and government medical programs. Even though living an unhealthy lifestyle may be seen as making a personal choice, this study shows that how you treat your body affects the economy, the government, your fellow employees, your children, and local businesses.

A few more facts from the study:

  • Sixty-one cents of every dollar spent on primary medical care for the 11 common medical conditions in adults can be attributed to the eight risk factors.
  • Maintaining the three youth risk factors at their current prevalence level would reduce potential costs by $15 million a year.
  • Although physical inactivity is the most expensive risk factor for kids, excess weight is the fastest growing. Moreover, excess weight results largely from physical inactivity and is a physiological precursor to Type II diabetes.
  • Losing weight would have the most impact: Estimated $610 million cost savings between 2007-2011-due to its pervasiveness and its strong correlation with lost productivity costs.