Is it worth up to $5,000 a year?
A George Washington University study found that being obese may cost nearly $5,000 annually for women and over $2,500 annually for men.
So where do these costs come from?
Ailments associated with being overweight, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and on-the-job injuries, can lead to big medical bills. Overweight people spend an additional $346 per year on medical costs, according to the George Washington University study; obese people shell out an additional $1,474 a year. This amount factors in co-payments, prescription drugs, and hospital costs, but doesn’t take into account any over-the-counter drugs, so the amount may be even higher, says Christine Ferguson, director of STOP Obesity Alliance and one of the researchers.
Being obese doesn’t just cost you more money, it can also limit how much you rake in—if you’re a woman. Studies conclude that being obese can lower women’s wages by between 1.5 to 15%, which averages out to be a loss of $1,855 a year. “I think that this issue of lost wages really reflects a huge bias against people who are overweight or obese,” says Ferguson.
In surveys, employers see obese women as lacking self-discipline and being less emotionally stable and competent than their thinner peers. However, heavier women also complete fewer years of education and retire earlier, both of which contribute to less money earned over time.
Why aren’t the salaries of obese men affected? “I suspect the labor market is more competitive for men than for women, so it is harder to discriminate against men,” says Eric A. Finklestein, an associate research professor in the Duke Global Health Institute at Duke University
Being obese might also cause you to lose more cash from work days lost to illness. Absenteeism causes overweight women to lose an additional $106 per year; obese men see a hit of $212, whereas obese women are set back $674.
While there’s no one study that has calculated the added cost of purchasing plus-size fashion, there’s anecdotal evidence that buying bigger clothing is more expensive. For example, Old Navy’s standard boot cut jeans costs $34.50, but the plus-size version is $43. A cable-knit sweater from the same store costs $37; the same plus-size design sells for $40.
Under its customers-of-size policy, Southwest Airlines requires people who can’t fit into the planes’ 17-inch-wide seats to purchase two tickets, so obese individuals may have to spend twice as much to fly. You can, however, get a refund for your second ticket if the flight isn’t sold out. Air Tran plans to follow suit in spring 2012.
In their report, the George Washington University researchers calculated that overweight people spend an extra $14 a year on life insurance. Obese people pay an extra $111 a year compared with normal-weight individuals.
While money in the bank is great the real benefit of getting those pounds off is you are more likely to live a happy, healthy, longer life. Your family and loved ones will reap the benefits as well.
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