Overweight in adolescents: implications for health expenditures

Econ Hum Biol. 2009 Mar;7(1):55-63. doi: 10.1016/j.ehb.2008.07.007. Epub 2008 Aug 6.


We consider a compelling research question raised by the growing prevalence of overweight among adolescents: do overweight adolescents incur greater health care expenditures than adolescents of normal weight? To address this question, we use data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) and estimate a two-part, generalized linear model (GLM) of health spending. Considering separate models by gender, we find that overweight females incur $790 more in annual expenditures than those of normal weight but we find no expenditure differences by bodyweight for males. We find that mental health spending is associated with part of the disparity in expenditures for adolescent females but establishing causality between mental health problems and weight-related health expenditure differences is challenging.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Female
  • Health Expenditures / trends*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Overweight / economics*
  • Overweight / epidemiology*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult