Excellus BlueCross BlueShield report details obesity’s impact on health and health care spending

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Two in three Central New York adults (498,000 people) are either overweight or obese, according to a report issued today by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. Excess annual medical spending in the region attributable to overweight and obesity is estimated at $545 million.

Overweight and obesity rates in Central New York are similar to those found throughout the country and in other parts of upstate New York, where adult overweight and obesity rates range from 60.6 percent in the Finger Lakes Region to 66.2 percent in the Southern Tier.

“The preponderance of overweight and obesity in upstate New York comes at a cost,” said Marybeth McCall, M.D., vice president and chief medical officer, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. “Individuals who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop serious medical conditions that can affect their quality of life and also contribute to the rising cost of health care.”

The Excellus BlueCross BlueShield report, “The facts about overweight and obesity rates among upstate New York adults, 2013-2014,” correlates obesity with arthritis, type 2 diabetes, asthma, cardiovascular disease and stroke. In addition, obesity is associated with cancer, gallbladder disease and chronic back pain, and new evidence shows that obesity increases the risk of depression.

The fact sheet also notes that upstate New York adults who are obese are almost twice as likely (32.1 percent) as those of normal weight (16.2 percent) to be limited in their activities due to physical, mental or emotional problems. Slightly more than a third report having no physical activity in the previous month.

Among upstate New York adults, the highest rates of overweight and obesity are among:

  • Men (71.0 percent ), compared to slightly more than half of women (56.0 percent).
  • Individuals in the 55 to 64 age group (76.0 percent).
  • Those who earn $15,000 to $24,999 (71.5 percent).
  • Those who did not graduate from high school (68.2 percent). The lowest overweight and obesity rate is among college graduates (55.1 percent).
  • Individuals who are unable to work (80.5 percent).

Compared to someone of normal weight, an overweight individual incurs an estimated $310 in annual incremental health care costs, and an obese individual incurs an estimated $2,005 in annual incremental health care costs. In New York state, overweight and obesity contributes $8.7 billion in excess annual medical costs, including $2.5 billion in excess annual medical costs in upstate New York.

The Excellus BlueCross BlueShield report classifies overweight individuals as those who have a body mass index of 25 to 29.9 and obese individuals as those who have a body mass index of 30 or higher. “People end up in the overweight or obese weight categories when the number of calories consumed exceeds the number of calories used through exercise and normal daily activities,” said McCall.

“Having a sedentary desk job, snacking in front of the TV, consuming too many meals outside the home and indulging in too many sugary foods and drinks are all lifestyle choices that we make and can control,” she said. McCall added that other causes of excess weight include biological, genetic, behavioral, social, cultural and environmental factors, all of which combine to make obesity an extremely complex condition.

“Regardless of overweight and obesity causes, the fact remains that the greater an individuals’ weight becomes, the more likely that person is of dying from all causes,” said McCall. “More alarming still is the prediction included in the report, that New York state’s adult obesity rate, currently at just under 25 percent, is on pace to hit 50 percent by 2030.”

To view the Excellus BlueCross BlueShield fact sheet on upstate New York overweight and obesity rates and other Excellus BlueCross BlueShield reports and infographics online, go to: https://www.excellusbcbs.com/wps/portal/xl/our/hpr/factsurveyreport/

To view a video about the report, go to youtube.com/excellusbcbs and select, “Losing weight: A marathon and not a sprint.”