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Eur J Health Econ. 2016 Dec;17(9):1141-1158. Epub 2015 Dec 23.

The costs and consequences of obesity in Germany: a new approach from a prevalence and life-cycle perspective.

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Institut für Recht der Wirtschaft, Universität Hamburg, Max Brauer Allee 60, 22765, Hamburg, Germany.
WINEG | Wissenschaftliches Institut der TK, für Nutzen und Effizienz im Gesundheitswesen, Bramfelder Straße 140, 22305, Hamburg, Germany.


With the steadily growing health burden of obesity in Germany, the measuring and quantification of its costs and relevant economic consequences have become increasingly important. The usual quantifications via previous cost-of-illness approaches mostly have several weaknesses, e.g., applying "indirect methods" by using "population-attributable fractions" to identify parts of costs that can be accrued to obesity, second using highly aggregated data and third often only displaying part of the costs. This article presents a new approach and a new estimation of the cost and consequences of obesity in Germany using claims data from a German health insurance company. A sample of 146,000 individuals was analyzed with both a prevalence and a life-cycle focus on the cost and consequences of obesity. With additional data sets, we calculate the deaths per year due to obesity, the excess costs per year and several intangible consequences usually referred to as "pain and suffering". Our results show that the cost estimations of obesity in Germany so far have been largely underestimated. The annual direct costs of obesity in Germany amount to approximately €29.39 billion and the indirect costs to an additional €33.65 billion. A total of 102,000 subjects die prematurely each year because of obesity, and there is a significant excess of unemployment, long-term nursing care, and pain and suffering due to obesity. From a lifetime perspective, every obese man is equal to an additional burden of €166,911 and each woman of €206,526 for the social security system in Germany. Obesity due to unhealthy eating is thus about to replace tobacco consumption in terms of costs and consequences as the main hazardous lifestyle factor and thus should be more intensively focussed by public health policy.


Burden; Claims data; Germany; Obesity; Social Costs

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