The Burden of Obesity on Diabetes in the United States: Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, 2008 to 2012

Value Health. 2017 Jan;20(1):77-84. doi: 10.1016/j.jval.2016.08.735. Epub 2016 Nov 4.


Background: Diabetes is one of the most prevalent and costly chronic diseases in the United States.

Objectives: To analyze the risk of developing diabetes and the annual cost of diabetes for a US general population.

Methods: Data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, 2008 to 2012, were used to analyze 1) probabilities of developing diabetes and 2) annual total health care expenditures for diabetics. The age-, sex-, race-, and body mass index (BMI)-specific risks of developing diabetes were estimated by fitting an exponential survival function to age at first diabetes diagnosis. Annual health care expenditures were estimated using a generalized linear model with log-link and gamma variance function. Complex sampling designs in the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey were adjusted for. All dollar values are presented in 2012 US dollars.

Results: We observed a more than 6 times increase in diabetes risks for class III obese (BMI ≥ 40 kg/m2) individuals compared with normal-weight individuals. Using age 50 years as an example, we found a more than 3 times increase in annual health care expenditures for those with diabetes ($13,581) compared with those without diabetes ($3,954). Compared with normal-weight (18.5 ≤ BMI < 25 kg/m2) individuals, class II obese (35 ≤ BMI < 40 kg/m2) and class III obese (BMI ≥ 40 kg/m2) individuals incurred an annual marginal cost of $628 and $756, respectively. The annual health care expenditure differentials between those with and without diabetes of age 50 years were the highest for individuals with class II ($12,907) and class III ($9,703) obesity.

Conclusions: This article highlights the importance of obesity on diabetes burden. Our results suggested that obesity, in particular, class II and class III (i.e., BMI ≥ 35 kg/m2) obesity, is associated with a substantial increase in the risk of developing diabetes and imposes a large economic burden.

Keywords: diabetes; economic burden; health care expenditures; obesity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Age of Onset
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Body Mass Index
  • Chronic Disease
  • Diabetes Mellitus / economics*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / ethnology
  • Female
  • Health Expenditures / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Econometric
  • Obesity / economics
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / ethnology
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States