Conventional wisdom says that communities will save on health care by getting people to lose weight and quit smoking. But a recent Dutch study finds that, compared to obese people and smokers, healthy people place a greater burden on health care systems! The reason: it costs more to care for people who live longer.


The study found that healthy people lived about 84 years, costing $417,000 in health care from age 20 on. Obese people live about 80 years, costing $371,000, and smokers lived 77 years, at a health care cost of $326,000.

“This throws a bucket of cold water onto the idea that obesity is going to cost trillions of dollars,” said Patrick Basham, a professor of health politics at Johns Hopkins University who was unconnected to the study. He said that government projections about obesity costs are frequently based on guesswork, political agendas, and changing science.

“If we’re going to worry about the future of obesity, we should stop worrying about its financial impact,” he said.