Recent Study Suggests High BMI Levels Greatly Impact Overall Costs

01 Feb, 2023 F.J. Thomas


Sarasota, FL ( – According to a recent study published last month in JAMA Network Open, higher body mass index or BMI levels could directly contribute to higher costs and levels of disability for musculoskeletal disorders, as well as productivity losses. 

According to a 2020 study, in 2017 there were 1.3 billion cases of musculoskeletal disorders that resulted in 121,300 deaths, and 138.7 million disability-adjusted life years. Some estimates have shown spending on musculoskeletal disorders at $380.9 billion. However, more recent estimates have found that the costs for musculoskeletal disorders is closer to $420 billion, with a focus on traumas, inflammatory conditions, and wear and tear. Additionally, the average cost for an obese patient with a wear and tear condition is around 80 percent higher than those patients that are not obese. 

BMI is calculated as a person’s weight divided by the square of height and is used as a potential indicator of the fat in the body. Those adults with a BMI from 25 to 30 are classified as overweight, and those with a BMI over 30 are classified as obese.  In 2019, statistics showed that high BMI levels accounted for 5 million deaths, and accounted for 9.3 percent of the gross domestic product loss in the U.S. 

Researchers from the University of Hong Kong in China reviewed 2019 data from 192 countries compiled across several global sources, including the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study, World Health Organization Global Health Expenditure, World Bank, and International Labour Organization databases. The researchers compared years lived with disability and healthcare costs. Additionally, they compared productivity losses due to morbidity attributable to high BMI levels for conditions such as low back pain, osteoarthritis, and gout. 

The researchers found that high BMI levels attributed to 36.3 million cases of low back pain, 16.9 million cases of gout, and 73.0 million cases of osteoarthritis. In total, the three categories accounted for 7.3 million years lived with disability (YLDs), with an estimated total global cost of $180.7 billion of which $60.5 billion was spent on healthcare costs. Additionally, the productivity losses totaled $120.2 billion. 

As the results were steady across all countries of varying income levels, the researchers noted that the increased prevalence of high BMI levels should not be just associated with increased income. Additionally, they speculated that while rapid urbanization may be a factor, with the exception of some remote African communities, the levels of BMI are rising at the same rate in rural areas as well. 

What is interesting to note it that while Africa had a high level of rural residents, overall the country seemed less effected by obesity. In fact, the percentage of overweight and obese adults in Africa was literally half of American totals. Additionally, as high BMI increased the risk for musculoskeletal disorders and YLDs, the incidence in Africa was also lower. 

Researchers also found that as the musculoskeletal disease burden increased with age, the disease and economic burden was more substantial in those communities that had a high percentage of older people. 

While the researchers concede that there is a need for more investigation to get a truer picture of the global impact, they believe the results suggest weight management should be a high priority for health practitioners when treating patients. 


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    About The Author

    • F.J. Thomas

      F.J. Thomas has worked in healthcare business for more than fifteen years in Tennessee. Her experience as a contract appeals analyst has given her an intimate grasp of the inner workings of both the provider and insurance world. Knowing first hand that the industry is constantly changing, she strives to find resources and information you can use.

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