Health care utilization and costs by metabolic syndrome risk factors

Metab Syndr Relat Disord. 2009 Aug;7(4):305-14. doi: 10.1089/met.2008.0070.


Background: This study compared prevalent health utilization and costs for persons with and without metabolic syndrome and investigated the independent associations of the various factors that make up metabolic syndrome.

Methods: Subjects were enrollees of three health plans who had all clinical measurements (blood pressure, fasting plasma glucose, body mass index, triglycerides, and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol) necessary to determine metabolic syndrome risk factors over the 2-year study period (n = 170,648). We used clinical values, International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision (ICD-9) diagnoses, and medication dispensings to identify risk factors. We report unadjusted mean annual utilization and modeled mean annual costs adjusting for age, sex, and co-morbidity.

Results: Subjects with metabolic syndrome (n = 98,091) had higher utilization and costs compared to subjects with no metabolic syndrome (n = 72,557) overall, and when stratified by diabetes (P < 0.001). Average annual total costs between subjects with metabolic syndrome versus no metabolic syndrome differed by a magnitude of 1.6 overall ($5,732 vs. $3,581), and a magnitude of 1.3 when stratified by diabetes (diabetes, $7,896 vs. $6,038; no diabetes, $4,476 vs. $3,422). Overall, total costs increased by an average of 24% per additional risk factor (P < 0.001). Costs and utilization differed by risk factor clusters, but the more prevalent clusters were not necessarily the most costly. Costs for subjects with diabetes plus weight risk, dyslipidemia, and hypertension were almost double the costs for subjects with prediabetes plus similar risk factors ($8,067 vs. $4,638).

Conclusions: Metabolic syndrome, number of risk factors, and specific combinations of risk factors are markers for high utilization and costs among patients receiving medical care. Diabetes and certain risk clusters are major drivers of utilization and costs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Blood Pressure
  • Cholesterol, HDL / metabolism
  • Delivery of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / therapy
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / economics*
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Triglycerides / metabolism


  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Triglycerides