Health care costs of obesity in New Zealand

Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1997 Oct;21(10):891-6. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0800486.


Objective: To estimate the costs of health care that are attributable to obesity in New Zealand.

Methods: The 1991 health care costs of non-insulin dependent diabetes, coronary heart disease, hypertension, gallstone disease, post-menopausal breast cancer and colon cancer were estimated and multiplied by the population attributable factor for obesity for each condition. The relative risk estimates were taken from the literature, the obesity prevalence from a 1990 New Zealand survey, and the costs and volumes of services were taken from a variety of sources and covered hospital (inpatient and outpatient) services, general practitioner consultations, pharmaceuticals, laboratory tests and ambulance services. Calculations were conservative and net of goods and services tax.

Results: A conservative estimate of the health care costs attributable to obesity for the six conditions was NZ$135 million. This represents about 2.5% of total health care costs which is similar to analyses from other countries.

Conclusions: The health care costs of obesity as estimated are considerable. However, the total cost of overfatness to the New Zealand population is far greater than this because lesser degrees of overfatness, the health care costs of other obesity-related conditions such as arthritis, the costs to individuals of weight-loss programs and the indirect and intangible costs were not included in the analysis. A substantial and wide-ranging public health effort is needed to turn around the increasing prevalence and costs of obesity.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Neoplasms / economics
  • Cholelithiasis / economics
  • Colonic Neoplasms / economics
  • Coronary Disease / economics
  • Cost of Illness
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / economics
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / economics
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New Zealand
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / economics*