February 5, 2008

Inconsiderate Thin People Cost Society a Bundle

After being deluged for years by media health pundits claiming that the costs of treating fat people are draining society dry it came as a refreshing surprise to read that when scientists actually did a study to determine the exact costs of all that obesity, they learned that it is not the obese costing society the most money. It turns out it's those damn thin people racking up the big bills.

Here's the story: Fat People Cheaper to Treat, Study Says

Here's the most interesting paragraph from the news report about the Dutch study that examined health histories of 1,000 people:

"Obese people had the most diabetes, and healthy people had the most strokes. Ultimately, the thin and healthy group cost the most, about $417,000, from age 20 on.

"The cost of care for obese people was $371,000, and for smokers, about $326,000."

An American researcher unconnected with this study commented that the previous claims that the obese were going to bankrupt society were based on "guesswork, political agendas, and changing science."

Clearly, it's time to stop bashing the obese and to start demanding that those selfish thin people do something to shorten their lives so we don't end up paying almost $100,000 extra per person to support them in those old age homes where they live out the slow deterioration made possible by their inconsiderate pursuit of fitness.

It's also worth noting that this study also found that while the obese had more diabetes, the thin had more strokes. Given a choice, I'd take diabetes over stroke any day. You can do something about diabetes. Stroke pretty much makes you its victim.

But joking aside, what this study really points out is how often the statements we read in the press about health issues are nothing more than guesses deriving from prejudices and reinforced by repetition, rather than information derived from well-constructed studies.

In another, related example, in March of 2004, Dr. Julie Gerberding, the head of the CDC, made the statement to the press that obesity caused 400,000 deaths a year. This was trumpeted throughout the media. But a study published by her own organization, the CDC, on April 20, 2005 in The Journal of the American Medical Association made it very clear that she'd pulled this impressive figure out of her imagination. The CDC research study published in JAMA found that the number of deaths attributable to obesity was actually 25,814. Not 400,000.

Did this second, research-supported, number get bruited around the media? No. Because it flew in the face of what people want to believe and diminished our ability to loathe and demonize the obese.

So don't expect the results of this new study to change public opinion either. No one is going to introduce legislation demanding that restaurants in Mississippi start supersizing the orders of thin people. But using the logic that has been applies to the obese, they ought to.

I mean, really. Those selfish, costly thin people! . . Why just look at that beanpole there, it's disgusting. He's a stroke just waiting to happen. . . . .


Scott S said...

I read this and thought, its about time someone studied the issue. After all, if women with D cup sized brassieres are more likely to get diabetes than women with B cups (the Canadian study did not note whether breast implants were a factor ... too bad, Hollywood!), then perhaps someone did need to quantify the costs based on fact, not based on prejudice.

Unknown said...

Of course fat people cost less to treat, it doesn't take a doctor a lot of effort to stick his head in the door and tell you you're fat. That's all the treatment many people get, whether they have an ear infection or a 90 lb. tumor.

Where fat people really drive up costs is social security, since we live longer than thin people.

Anonymous said...

Well, it's certainly interesting that they actually studied this, but should we really be surprised by the findings?
You take a very interesting approach with this post, and one that has inspired me to write a post of my own. As a young "thin" person with type 1 diabetes, I am most definitely "costing society a bundle", but I think the view looks a little different from here.

I hope you'll stop by my blog at http://www.teamsweetpea.com to check out my perspective.

Alcinda (Cindy) Moore said...

"It's also worth noting that this study also found that while the obese had more diabetes, the thin had more strokes."

This really surprised me!!

I'm with you too....I'd rather have diabetes than a stroke!! There are hemorrhagic strokes in my family history, one more reason why I don't want my cholesterol too low!! I wonder if there were more hemorrhagic or more ischemic strokes in this group!

The Old Man and His Dog said...

Deaths partially halt diabetes study


They sure do make it sound like it's a BAD thing to control your BS, but they don't emphasize that all these participants were already "high risk CVD" participants.


What's your take?

Anonymous said...

I think the study authors got cause and effect mixed up (don't they always?).

You don't cost the healthcare system more because you live longer.

You live longer because you cost the healthcare system more.

That is, if you're actually going in for your annual exams, having all those expensive "early detection" tests, and going in for early and aggressive treatment when problems are found, you will live longer than someone who waits to go to the doctor until the last possible moment. Really, how much does it cost a doctor to say, "Im sorry, Mr. Smith, but there nothing I can do"?