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The intangible costs of overweight and obesity in Germany

Referierte Aufsätze Web of Science

Fan Meng, Peng Nie, Alfonso Sousa-Poza

In: Health Economics Review 13 (2023), 1, 14


Background: Previous literature documents the direct and indirect economic costs of obesity, yet none has attempted to quantify the intangible costs of obesity. This study focuses on quantifying the intangible costs of one unit body mass index (BMI) increase and being overweight and obese in Germany. Methods: By applying a life satisfaction-based compensation value analysis to 2002–2018 German Socio-Economic Panel Survey data for adults aged 18–65, the intangible costs of overweight and obesity are estimated. We apply individual income as a reference for estimating the value of the loss of subjective well-being due to overweight and obesity. Results: The intangible costs of overweight and obesity in 2018 amount to 42,450 and 13,853 euros, respectively. A one unit increase in BMI induced a 2553 euros annual well-being loss in the overweight and obese relative to those of normal weight. When extrapolated to the entire country, this figure represents approximately 4.3 billion euros, an intangible cost of obesity similar in magnitude to the direct and indirect costs documented in other studies for Germany. These losses, our analysis reveals, have remained remarkably stable since 2002. Conclusions: Our results underscore how existing research into obesity’s economic toll may underestimate its true costs, and they strongly imply that if obesity interventions took the intangible costs of obesity into account, the economic benefits would be considerably larger.