Doctor's Blog

Watching the world fall apart?

It seems problems are coming from all sides these days. Money problems. Banks failing. Markets flailing. As the computer keeps flashing the ever-worsening news, people need a PLAN.

Here's one: The best long-term financial plan you can have is to stay healthy .

Over time, good health can save you a fortune – including ways you might never imagine.

There are, of course, the obvious ways good health keeps you out of financial trouble. Doctor bills. Pharmacy bills. Lost days at work. All these are lower when you're healthy.

But there are other, more subtle ways. Good health means you'll be more productive. You'll get further at work, accomplish more in less time. Ill health also has a way of making you depressed, which in turn diminishes your productivity.

Paying a heavy price for being heavy
And when it comes to obesity – which is, after all, what this site is about – the story is worse. Here are the top 5 additional costs of obesity:
1. Lower wages: Stanford University researchers found that obese men and women earn, on average, $3.41 per hour less than their peers. Over the course of a year, that means $7,093 in lost income, on average. The income gap is smaller when obese workers are young, but it widens over time. The difference may be partly attributable to healthcare costs: Employers tend to pay obese workers less when they're footing the bill for their health insurance, researchers said, speculating that it could be an unconscious reaction on the part of the employer to having to pay higher premiums for a more obese workforce.

2. Fewer work hours: On average, obese workers tend to lose a week of work per year due to illnesses related to their weight, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. A firm of 1,000 employees loses approximately $285,000 a year due to obese and overweight employees, about 30% of which is attributable to absenteeism, according to Eric A. Finkelstein and Laurie Zuckerman's "The Fattening of America."

3. Higher medical costs: Overweight males incur annual medical costs that are $170 higher than their leaner co-workers, while overweight females incur costs $495 higher than their counterparts, Finkelstein and Zuckerman write. They also note that hospitals have to pay more to treat the obese: oversized wheelchairs can cost about $2,500, eight times the cost of an ordinary wheelchair, and operating tables that are strong enough to support the severely obese can top $30,000.

4. Extra air travel costs: Budget airlines require obese people or people who may take up more than one seat to buy an adequate number of seats on the flight. And heavier passengers burn more fuel: In the 1990s, Americans' average weight increased by 10 pounds, which means that airlines spent $275 million on an additional 350 million gallons of fuel to support that extra weight, according to a 2004 Centers for Disease Control report.

5. More gasoline: Obviously, more weight burns more gasoline in cars. A 2006 study found that Americans pumped 938 million more gallons of fuel a year than they did in 1960 because of their heftier weights. That adds up to about $3.55 billion in increased annual gas expenditures nationwide.

So... want to save money? Be more successful? Lose weight. Get healthier.

That's the end of the rainbow.


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