Estimating the costs of medicalization

Soc Sci Med. 2010 Jun;70(12):1943-1947. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.02.019. Epub 2010 Mar 10.


Medicalization is the process by which non-medical problems become defined and treated as medical problems, usually as illnesses or disorders. There has been growing concern with the possibility that medicalization is driving increased health care costs. In this paper we estimate the medical spending in the U.S. of identified medicalized conditions at approximately $77 billion in 2005, 3.9% of total domestic expenditures on health care. This estimate is based on the direct costs associated with twelve medicalized conditions. Although due to data limitations this estimate does not include all medicalized conditions, it can inform future debates about health care spending and medicalization.

MeSH terms

  • Cost of Illness*
  • Costs and Cost Analysis / methods
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Expenditures / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • United States