Five ‘modifiable’ health risk factors alone rack up 27% of US healthcare bill, study shows
A study published by The Lancet Public Health has revealed that health risks which can be improved by engagement with healthier lifestyles were linked to more than $730bn of healthcare spending in the US in 2016.
The research by Vitality Group and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) found the costs were largely due to five risk factors, which include overweight and obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, poor diet and smoking. US healthcare spending on these factors alone reached 27% of the $2.7trn total in 2016, the study revealed.
The findings come at the same time that Vitality UK data shows that claims were significantly lower across main claims categories for those who had engaged with a healthy and active lifestyle, to reach a higher Vitality status, during the same period.
Of Vitality members' five most common types of claims for the period, cancer claims costs were 25% lower for those with a gold or platinum Vitality status compared to peers with a bronze status; gastrointestinal claims costs were 41% lower; cardiovascular claims were 33% lower, and trauma claims were 30% lower. Interestingly, the same relationship was not seen for musculoskeletal claims which were 2% higher for gold and platinum members.
'Prevention is paramount'
Francois Millard, chief actuarial officer, Vitality Group, and a study author, said: "Given that US healthcare 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.
"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 centre of all policy discussion, not just those related to sickness. 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."
The study also found that controllable and treatable risk were strongly related to costly US medical conditions - including cardiovascular disease, cancers, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases.
The breakdown of costs for the five five modifiable risk factors were overweight and obesity (high body mass index), $238.5 billion; high blood pressure, $179.9 billion; high fasting plasma glucose, $171.9 billion; dietary risks, $143.6 billion; and tobacco smoke, $130.0 billion.
The Lancet study also showed that health care spending increases significantly with age, with the greatest proportion of risk-attributable spending associated with those aged 65 years and older (44.8%).
Dr Keith Klintworth, managing director, VitalityHealth said: "This is a significant study that illustrates the huge costs tied to poor diets, high blood pressure, smoking, and obesity.
"This new data comes at a time when health has been catapulted to the forefront of people's minds, and is a timely reminder for a renewed focus on preventing and managing these key risks early before they turn into costly diseases and illnesses.
"At Vitality we want to help more people get active and live healthy lives and we can see that by engaging in our Vitality Programme, members can realise the numerous benefits of taking care of their health and wellbeing."
Last week, Vitality simplified its proposition and enhanced its rewards and benefits offering, to provide a single comprehensive personal protection product and one Optimiser plan from October.Read more.
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