In a recent study by Duke Medicine, it appears that an increase in our pant size leads to a decrease in our bank accounts. Researchers found that the costs associated with healthcare climbed as patients’ body mass index (BMI) rose.

The researchers found that costs associated with medical and drug claims rose gradually with each unit increase in body mass index (BMI). Notably, these increases began above a BMI of 19, which falls in the lower range of the healthy weight category.

The researchers used the health insurance data of over 17,000 Duke employees to determine the rise in healthcare costs. They reviewed claims made for the ten years between 2001 and 2011 and matched increased doctor visits, new prescriptions, and other costs with the BMI of each individual. Obesity related diseases appeared to increase as participants in the study gained even a small amount of weight related to their BMI. Women saw a higher overall increase in costs as their BMI rose, but men experienced rapid increase as they gained weight.

Considering the workplace component and the healthcare costs related to insurance for overweight employees, employers may want to improve wellness programs.

Workplace initiatives should include:

  • Healthier snacks in the break room
  • Organization of fitness programs such as walking groups
  • Access to alternative options for employees like gym memberships or yoga classes
  • Special attention to stress and work/life balance

Because most adults in the United States spend more of their waking hours at work than at home, it may be incumbent upon U.S. employers to ensure that their workers have the best access to health improvement programs. Not only will it help individual workers lead a healthier life, it will ensure the U.S. economy has a healthy workforce in place.

Paying special attention to the increase of healthcare costs and BMI may just be one way to determine overall health, but the health of adults in this country is becoming a major concern for healthcare professionals.

Do you know your BMI and how it is affecting your healthcare costs?

Image by Doc Searls via Flickr

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