Nearly three-quarters of a trillion dollars in health care spending can be linked to modifiable health risks, such as obesity, high blood pressure, and smoking, according to a new report published in The Lancet Public Health.
The study found that for 2016, modifiable health risks were linked to more than $730 billion in US health care spending. Researchers from the University of Washington and Vitality Group worked together on the study, which found that modifiable health care costs were largely due to five risk factors: overweight and obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, poor diet, and smoking. The Lancet study estimates that more than a quarter of all health care spending in the US annually is due to conditions tied to lifestyle choices—and that these conditions are to some degree preventable.
“Given that US health care expenses are almost double that of other developed nations, we set out to understand how much of these costs could be attributed to modifiable risk factors,” said Francois Millard, chief actuarial officer at Vitality and one of the study’s authors.
“While the relationship between lifestyle risks and medical conditions is understood, this is the first study to offer a comprehensive analysis of health spending related to these risks. This helps inform how our society is investing its resources, and why health should be at the center of all policy discussion, not just those related to sickness,” Millard added. “We are seeing with COVID-19 that prevention is paramount to our own health and the health of our economies. It’s time to apply the same urgency to these other preventable diseases.”