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Friday, April 27, 2007

The obesity police are coming

If smoking needs to be banned for the negative externalities - both the inconvenience and undesirability of second-hand smoke and the health costs incurred by long-term smokers - then the same logic will apply to obesity (especially if the obese ever become a minority of the population).

There might be aesthetic negative externalities of obesity, but saying so in public is definitely politically incorrect. However, the monetary externalities of obesity might be fair game. The empirical analysis of the costs of externalities is still in its infancy, but a new paper suggests the monetary costs of the obese might be a full order of magnitude greater than the non-obese:
There was a clear linear relationship between BMI and rate of claims. Employees in obesity class III (BMI 40) had 11.65 claims per 100 FTEs, while recommended-weight employees had 5.80; the effect on lost workdays (183.63 vs 14.19 lost workdays per 100 FTEs), medical claims costs ($51 091 vs $7503 per 100 FTEs), and indemnity claims costs ($59 178 vs $5396 per 100 FTEs) was even stronger. The claims most strongly affected by BMI were related to the following: lower extremity, wrist or hand, and back (body part affected); pain or inflammation, sprain or strain, and contusion or bruise (nature of the illness or injury); and falls or slips, lifting, and exertion (cause of the illness or injury). The combination of obesity and high-risk occupation was particularly detrimental.

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