Study: Obesity More Dangerous Than Drinking Or Smoking?

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A study published in Health Affairs compared the effects of obesity, smoking, and drinking on medical problems and costs.

Cigarettes and alcohol are thought of as “more evil” than simply being heavy, but what does the data say?

From the study: “Obesity has roughly the same association with chronic health conditions as does twenty years’ aging; this greatly exceeds the associations of smoking or problem drinking.”

Compared to normal weight individuals who don’t drink or smoke, here are some stats:

  • Obesity is associated with a 36 percent increase in inpatient and outpatient spending and a 77 percent increase in medications
  • current smokers have a 21 percent increase in inpatient and outpatient spending and a 28 percent increase in medications
  • And then slightly smaller effects for problem drinkers

The author concluded that if you’re obese, then you have the health of someone TWENTY years older than you. So if you’re a 55 year old obese individual, you actually have the body of a 75 year old. (And definitely not a fit and healthy 75 year old!)

So being obese is worse for your health than smoking, and smoking is worse for your health than drinking.

For best results, quit all 3 :)

Here’s the study reference: Health Affairs, March 2002 vol. 21 no. 2 245-253.

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