Obesity puts a drag on the wallet as well as health, especially for women.


Doctors have long known that medical bills are higher for the obese, but that’s only a portion of the real-life costs.


George Washington University researchers added in things like employee sick days, lost productivity, even the need for extra gasoline — and found the annual cost of being obese is $4,879 US for a woman and $2,646 US for a man.


That’s far more than the cost of being merely overweight — $524 US for women and $432 US for men, concluded the report being released yesterday, which analyzed previously published studies to come up with a total.


Why the difference between the sexes? Studies suggest larger women earn less than skinnier women, while wages don’t differ when men pack on the pounds. That was a big surprise, said study co-author and health policy professor Christine Ferguson.

Researchers had expected everybody’s wages to suffer with obesity, but “this indicates you’re not that disadvantaged as a guy, from a wage perspective,” said Ferguson.

Then consider that obesity is linked to earlier death. While that’s not something people usually consider a pocketbook issue, the report did average in the economic value of lost life. That brought women’s annual obesity costs up to $8,365 US, and men’s to $6,518 US.

The report was financed by one of the manufacturers of gastric banding, a type of obesity surgery.

The numbers are in line with other research and aren’t surprising, said Dr. Kevin Schulman, a professor of medicine and health economist at Duke University who wasn’t involved in the new report.

Two-thirds of Americans are either overweight or obese, and childhood obesity has tripled in the past 30 years. Nearly 18 per cent of adolescents now are obese, facing a future of diabetes, heart disease and other ailments.