September 21st, 2010
08:56 AM ET

Study: Obesity may slim down your wallet

More than a third of American men and women are obese. According to a new study, the excess weight doesn't just weigh heavily on their health, but on their wallets as well.

The economic costs of being obese can be as much as $4,879 for a woman, and $2,646 for a man per year, according to the report.

"We looked at both medical and non-medical costs," said Avi Dor, professor of economics and health policy at George Washington University, and a study co-author.

"The non-medical costs were mostly on-the-job costs - things like lost wages, lost productivity at work, sick leave and excess gasoline charges," said Dor.  Medical costs included things like inpatient and outpatient hospital visits, emergency room fees, doctors visits and prescription drug costs.

But why does obesity cost women so much more? Study co-author Professor Christine Ferguson says the gender disparity is largely the result of lost wages.

"For men who are overweight or obese, it does not affect their wages," Ferguson said. "If you are an obese woman, you're much more likely to be earning significantly less."

According to both Ferguson and Dor, the study has one major limitation: It did not include factors such as excess clothing needs, food, larger automobile size or furniture, because reliable data for these factors do not exist.

"Anecdotal evidence suggests that these costs could be significant," Dor said.

But there is some good news: weight loss, even in small amounts can benefit your waistline and your bank account.

"The cost of being obese to you at the individual level is a pretty significant cost," Ferguson said, "but weight loss, even in small increments could significantly impact your health, and help reduce the other costs you might be feeling."

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.