Background: Estimates of the economic cost of risk factors for chronic disease to the NHS provide evidence for prioritization of resources for prevention and public health. Previous comparable estimates of the economic costs of poor diet, physical inactivity, smoking, alcohol and overweight/obesity were based on economic data from 1992-93.
Methods: Diseases associated with poor diet, physical inactivity, smoking, alcohol and overweight/obesity were identified. Risk factor-specific population attributable fractions for these diseases were applied to disease-specific estimates of the economic cost to the NHS in the UK in 2006-07.
Results: In 2006-07, poor diet-related ill health cost the NHS in the UK £5.8 billion. The cost of physical inactivity was £0.9 billion. Smoking cost was £3.3 billion, alcohol cost £3.3 billion, overweight and obesity cost £5.1 billion.
Conclusion: The estimates of the economic cost of risk factors for chronic disease presented here are based on recent financial data and are directly comparable. They suggest that poor diet is a behavioural risk factor that has the highest impact on the budget of the NHS, followed by alcohol consumption, smoking and physical inactivity.