On the occasion of the European Adiposity-Day: Overweight causes enormous sickness costs in Germany

Severe overweight poses a growing and increasingly expensive health issue in Germany. The direct sickness costs for the German healthcare system caused by adiposity and its secondary diseases have decisively increased, and reached in 2008 an estimate of 8,6 billion Euro.

The costs for the treatment of obesity and its secondary diseases are rising - for patients and for the healthcare system. (Foto: IFB Adipositas)

On the occasion of the European Adiposity-Day (16.05.2015) the Integrated Research- and Treatment Center (IFB) AdiposityDiseases emphasizes that the expenses could rise further without effective prevention and therapy. Health economists of the IFB were able to prove that the costs were mainly caused by in-patient and out-patient treatment of secondary diseases associated with obesity, such as type-2-diabetes, cardiovascular- and cancer diseases, and also liver- and bilious complaints. The estimated costs for 2008 are considerably higher than a previous study in 2002 anticipated. The direct costs in 2002 were only about 4.9 billion Euro. The reasons for the increase of costs were the growing number of obese people in the population, but also the more precise calculation data for 2008.

According to current calculations about 3.27 percent of the total expenditure within the healthcare system were caused by overweight and adiposity in 2008, whereas in 2002 the ratio was only at 2.1 percent. The indirect costs caused by the loss in productivity, e. g. by disability or early retirement amounted to 8.2 billion Euros in 2008, the number of deaths caused by overweight and adiposity was about 48.000. Above all, cancer- and cardiovascular diseases as a result of severe obesity lead to the early death of overweight patients.

The research team of Prof. Hans-Helmut König, director of the Institute of Health Economy and Health Service Research of the university clinic Hamburg-Eppendorf determined in its IFB-study the sickness burden of adiposity and overweight by means of health surveys, epidemiological studies, and routine data of the Federal Office of Statistics and Social Insurances throughout Germany.

The amount of costs is alarming, considering that the number of obese patients in Germany is rising. According to a study by the Robert-Koch-Institute (DEGS 2011), 60 percent of adults in Germany are currently considered overweight, 23 percent are obese with a body-mass-index of 30 kg/sqm or higher. Therefore, Prof. König warns: “The high costs of overweight and obesity show how important effective therapy and prevention programs are. The expenses will rise even more if we are not able to test the efficiency of such programs scientifically and to offer appropriate and cost-effective programs on a nationwide basis.”  The premise would however be that adiposity is acknowledged as a serious disease with various causes. Since adiposity is often seen merely as the result of an unhealthy lifestyle and blamed on those affected, the set-up of appropriate therapy and preventive measures is aggravated.

Lehnert T, Streltchenia P, Konnopka A, Riedel-Heller S, König HH: Health burden and costs of obesity and overweight in Germany: an update. Eur J Health Econ. 2014 Nov. 8.

Konnopka A, Bödemann M, König HH: Health burden and costs of obesity and overweight in Germany. Eur J Health Econ. 2011 Aug; 12(4):345-52. (Studie für 2002)

Additional sources:
Mensink GB, Schienkiewitz A, Haftenberger M, Lampert T. Ziese T, Scheidt-Nave C: Overweight and obesity in Germany: results of the German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Adults (DEGS1). Bundesgesundheitsblatt- Gesundheitsforschung Gesundheitsscutz. 2013 May;56(5-6):786-94.

Prof. Dr. med. Hans-Helmut König, MPH
Head of research project at the IFB AdiposityDiseases
Directer of the Insitute of Health Economy and Health Service Research
University Clinic Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE)
Martinistr. 52, 20246 Hamburg
Tel.: +49 (0)40 7410-54464/-53382
Fax: +49 (0)40 7410-40261
Mail: h [dot] koenig [at] uke [dot] de

University Hospital Leipzig
Integrated Research- and Treatment Center (IFB)
Philip-Rosenthal-Str. 27 (Rotes Haus), 04103 Leipzig
Tel.: +49 (0)341 / 97-15940