Direct medical cost of overweight and obesity in the USA: a quantitative systematic review

Obes Rev. 2011 Jan;12(1):50-61. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2009.00708.x.


To estimate per-person and aggregate direct medical costs of overweight and obesity and to examine the effect of study design factors. PubMed (1968-2009), EconLit (1969-2009) and Business Source Premier (1995-2009) were searched for original studies. Results were standardized to compute the incremental cost per overweight person and per obese person, and to compute the national aggregate cost. A total of 33 US studies met review criteria. Among the four highest-quality studies, the 2008 per-person direct medical cost of overweight was $266 and of obesity was $1723. The aggregate national cost of overweight and obesity combined was $113.9 billion. Study design factors that affected cost estimates included use of national samples vs. more selected populations, age groups examined, inclusion of all medical costs vs. obesity-related costs only, and body mass index cut-offs for defining overweight and obesity. Depending on the source of total national healthcare expenditures used, the direct medical cost of overweight and obesity combined is approximately 5.0% to 10% of US healthcare spending. Future studies should include nationally representative samples, evaluate adults of all ages, report all medical costs and use standard body mass index cut-offs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Health Care Costs*
  • Humans
  • Obesity / economics*
  • United States