Obese workers have even higher health costs than smokers, a new study finds.

The analysis, reported by U.S. News, revealed that both obesity and smoking were associated with higher health care costs. Average yearly health costs were $1,275 more for smokers than nonsmokers and $1,850 more for obese people than those with normal weight. Health care costs for morbidly obese people were up to $5,500 more a year than for normal weight people.

The additional costs associated with obesity appeared to be lower after the researchers adjusted for other accompanying health problems, but "this may lead to underestimation of the true incremental costs, since obesity is a risk factor for developing chronic conditions," wrote James Moriarty and colleagues at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

Researchers examined data from more than 30,000 Mayo Clinic employees and retirees who had continuous health insurance from 2001 to 2007.

Meanwhile, a Cornell University study says obesity accounts for 21 percent of America’s healthcare spending. Annual medical costs for an obese American are $2,741 higher (using 2005 dollars) than for Americans who are not obese, totalling $190.2 billion nationwide. A report released earlier this year predicted that 75 percent of Americans would be overweight by 2020.
 

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