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What is the True Cost of Poor Health?

  blog post author icon   blog post published date icon   03/04/21

Disease  Financial  

Chronic illness is running rampant in the U.S. and it's costing us more than just our health. 3.8 trillion dollars is spent on healthcare every year. That money doesn't go to curing the diseases. It's only diagnosing conditions, pain management, and slowing the diseases from getting worse. The financial cost of poor health is significant and something people need to educate themselves about.

healthcare provider measuring a patient's blood pressure

What is the True Cost of Poor Health?

  blog post author icon   blog post published date icon   03/04/21

Disease  Financial  

Chronic illness is running rampant in the U.S. and it's costing us more than just our health. 3.8 trillion dollars is spent on healthcare every year. That money doesn't go to curing the diseases. It's only diagnosing conditions, pain management, and slowing the diseases from getting worse. The financial cost of poor health is significant and something people need to educate themselves about.

According to the CDC, 6 out of 10 adults in the United States have a chronic illness. That's more than half the population.

But it gets worse.

4 out of 10 adults have more than one chronic condition.

It's easy to look at the price tag of healthy food and supplements and worry about how they will increase your grocery bill. But when compared to the cost of doctor visits, tests, prescriptions, insurance premiums, and missed work, healthier living may actually be cheaper in the long-run.

Here's how much money poor health is taking out of patients' pockets and what you can do to help prevent the financial burden of chronic illness.

Diabetes Cost Breakdown

The American Diabetes Association conducted an economic impact study around diabetes that revealed shocking financial facts.

The study showed that in 2017, people with diabetes spent an average of 16,750 dollars on medical costs annually, more than twice as much as they were expected to without diabetes.

Diabetes can take a bite out of your paycheck, too. With the average cost of a sick day from work, the diabetic community lost 3.3 billion dollars due to their illness in only one year.

Then there's the 37.5 billion dollars lost by those whose diabetes made them too sick to work at all.

Most tragically of all, 19.9 billion dollars was lost by the 277,000 who were killed by diabetes.

An estimated 1 in 10 Americans has diabetes and the numbers keep growing. An overwhelming majority (90-95%) of those cases are type 2 diabetes, often caused by obesity, lack of exercise, and poor diet.

The good news is that because we know many of the problems that lead to diabetes, it can sometimes be prevented. With literally billions of dollars on the line, an increased investment into our health is a smart financial move.

Alzheimer's Cost Breakdown

244 billion dollars is the amount the Alzheimer's Association estimates people donate to a family member with Alzheimer's. That sum is a combination of actual money spent and the value of their volunteered caregiving.

On top of that, Alzheimer's and dementia cost the U.S. government 305 billion in 2020. By 2050, that number could be over 1 trillion dollars.

This report from the Alzheimer's Association also estimated the lifetime cost of care per patient is 424,000 dollars.

The report emphasizes the importance of early detection. Besides an early diagnosis saving patients an estimated 64,000 dollars, there's also hope that lifestyle changes will slow disease progression.

Things like quitting smoking and getting more exercise could make a difference after an early diagnosis. Even better if you take on this healthier behavior before it comes to any diagnosis.

Arthritis Cost Breakdown

An estimated 1 in 4 adults is suffering from arthritis. Causing poor health and productivity problems, it is one of the most common work disabilities.

The prevailing form of arthritis is osteoarthritis, or OA.

OA costs each patient an annual average of 11,500 dollars and loses them an additional 4,040 dollars from missing work. 88% of people with OA are only 45 years old or older, so those expenses will add up year after year after year.

OA currently affects around 32.5 million Americans and one-third of those have at least five other chronic health problems. That means even more expenses and missed work.

Functional medicine has come to the forefront in the fight against chronic illnesses like arthritis, especially when people are unable to find adequate relief from typical treatments. Functional medicine includes supplements and diets that reduce inflammation.

Heart Disease/Stroke Cost Breakdown

1 of every 3 deaths in the United States is from a heart attack or stroke. About 20% of those deaths are people under the age of 65.

Those big numbers come with a big financial impact.

The CDC estimates the cost in the U.S. of both medical expenses and missed work to add up to 1 billion dollars every single day.

There's also the cost of absenteeism in the workplace. A study by the European Society of Cardiology found preventing heart disease could have a billion-dollar impact on GDP by decreasing worker deaths, minimizing absenteeism, and improving productivity.

If just 10% of heart disease and strokes were prevented, it would improve the GDP by 1.5 billion dollars.

Preventing these serious conditions is not as impossible as it might seem from the large number of people currently affected by them. Lifestyle changes may be able to prevent 80% of cases. Quitting smoking as well as improving diet and exercise could save thousands of lives every year.

Obesity Cost Breakdown

At the heart of many chronic conditions is obesity. The obesity epidemic isn't news and the 42% of American adults who are part of the epidemic know they should lose weight. What many people don't know is how much money that extra weight is costing them.

Obesity goes hand in hand with type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, and stroke, each of which comes with its own medical expenses.

But obese patients end up paying 50% to 100% more for medical treatment related to these diseases because of the added complication of their weight. Insurance premiums can also be 25% to 50% more expensive, which means that extra weight is costing obese patients money every single month.

Work absenteeism by obese employees costs businesses an annual amount of around 4.3 billion dollars.

All of these expenses are expected to increase as the obesity epidemic continues to grow.

With only a 10% drop in body weight, an obese person could decrease their medical spending by an estimated 2200-5000 dollars.

Cost of a Sick Employee

Chronic illness also hits businesses in their wallets. How much does a sick day cost an employer?

The CDC Foundation calculated that businesses lose 225.8 billion dollars every year from employee absenteeism. This could be sick days, workman's comp, or disability pay.

On top of that is the expense of presenteeism, which is when employees show up to work but are unable to provide their usual productivity due to illness or other problems. It is estimated that sick workers are 20% less productive than when they are healthy. This hit to productivity costs the economy 150-250 billion dollars annually.

Employees who work sick also risk infecting other employees. When the condition isn't contagious, as most chronic illnesses are not, employees are still risking making their own health worse by working while sick. Both of these cause further sick leave and productivity problems.

While the typical employee misses 4 days of work a year, they average 57.5 unproductive days at work in that same span. So presenteeism is actually an even larger problem than absenteeism.

What this all means for employers is that investments in employee health don't just minimize sick days. Those investments also help employees feel well enough to be productive.

Businesses have an opportunity to help their employees and improve their bottom line at the same time. Changes don't have to be massive or expensive.

Offering healthier snacks at offices, rather than the usual donuts or vending machine packaged foods, can make a big difference. Many people find eating healthy to be a challenge, so making it easy for employees to pick nutritious snacks can be a big help.

Employers can also make it easier for their employees to get exercise by offering flexible time off to get to the gym or go for a midday walk. Even if employees take time out of their workday to exercise, businesses still come out ahead when it means those employees have fewer sick days and better work productivity.

An Added Expense to the Cost of Poor Health

People with a chronic illness are not only at risk of developing other physical illnesses. They are also at a higher risk for developing depression. Mental illness is one of the most expensive diseases to treat.

Mental health may affect the global economy to the tune of 16 trillion dollars over the next 2 decades.

People with depression take an average of 4.8 sick days every year, adding up to 200 million sick days per year in the U.S. and over 12 billion days per year worldwide. Americans lose 53 billion dollars in income because of mental health problems.

The harsh economic expense makes it even more important for people facing chronic health problems to take care of themselves and their mental well-being. The same kinds of lifestyle changes that can improve physical health can also aid mental health.

How to Keep Your Wallet Healthy

Between medical bills, missed work, lowered productivity, and the chance of developing further illnesses, chronic disease is an expensive prospect.

Like the old saying, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," the best way to avoid these financial hardships is to invest in your health now. The cost of healthier living is worth it when compared to the cost of poor health.

Don't wait for a diagnosis to motivate you. Don't wait for your health to get worse.

You can make the changes for a better life now.

So do it.

Your bank account will thank you for it.

headshot of Jay Todtenbier 2018

Jay Todtenbier is an original founder of in 2010 and has operated the business ever since. He is also a tennis instructor and gospel musician. Formerly he spent 25 years in business development, technology and marketing with startups and major corporations having gone through the tech boom in Silicon Valley in the 90s. He became passionate about, and began studying and practicing Wellness as a Lifestyle after experiencing chronic, personal health challenges including depression, auto-immune disorders, and being overweight that impacted his ability to live a healthy, vibrant life. Since then, he has been an advocate for healthier living encouraging others to live better through making small, gradual changes to lifestyle behaviors relating to whole-foods nutrition, stress management, reasonable exercise, proper sleep, and the use of targeted, high-quality supplements.

Learn more about Jay Todtenbier.

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