Does Being Unhealthy Increase Health Costs? /// Let’s Party!

Thought this might be an interesting aside to the “missing six-pack abs” mystery, and the ongoing, and slightly misguided, “WTF is a yoga body?” convo: According to some guy over at Forbes (why not?) responding to a 2008 PLOS Medicine study (who are they?), obesity prevention, while cutting costs in obesity-related medical bills, does very little to curtail overall healthcare costs due to the eventual medical costs related to other, later, forms of death. And, since I’m having trouble phrasing that properly, let’s take a look at the language in the PLOS study itself:

“Although effective obesity prevention leads to a decrease in costs of obesity-related diseases, this decrease is offset by cost increases due to diseases unrelated to obesity in life-years gained. Obesity prevention may be an important and cost-effective way of improving public health, but it is not a cure for increasing health expenditures.”

Or, as the very insightful “crash/collapse” blogger/theorist, Ran Prier, puts it:

“[T]he real reason that alcohol and cigarettes are heavily taxed is that people who use them are seen as morally inferior and deserving of punishment. The purpose of sin taxes is to make obedient people feel righteous.”

Basically, great! You saved money by not dying from being too fat, but you will eventually pay up when you die of being too old and demented. Either way, someone’s gonna pay for your selfish “Look at me. I’m so special!” death rattle whether it’s because you live like an unhealthy fucktard making me unhealthy, or because you have some deranged idea that you should live forever while at the same time making everyone pay for your thirtieth hip replacement.

Of course, speaking like that makes me sound like I care about where my taxes go, which makes me sound like some sort of conservative libertarian, which make me sound like someone who has any idea where my taxes go. I mean, it all goes to funding the next season of Girls, right?



Obviously, most everyone bent on some vague notion of the optimal “healthy” yogic lifestyle, in commercial yoga culture wrongfully defined as being “without illness,” as opposed being “able to productively and swiftly confront illness,” will disagree with the PLOS findings. As a way of adding to that anti-obesity flame here’s one of the most extensive (and confusing), but still exciting to look at, infographs I have ever come across. And, yes, it’s about obese (read: fat) people.


Enjoy the holiday. Don’t forget to eat your faces off!


  1. amphibi1yogini

    “The purpose of sin taxes is to make obedient people feel righteous.”

    Nailed it.

    You forgot to add that some people pick the right parents … so they have “yoga bodies” and “freedom from disease” that way …

  2. Zodiyack

    Studios should charge extra to park the Hummer sized mats in class. For the most part, the only purpose they serve is to provide 25% more space for the practitioner in a crowded class at the expense of others. Rarely is someone really that wide, and if that is the case, they can get a pass.

  3. Linda

    Not an economist, but there is a larger issue here. People who die young are not paying taxes or paying for anything else, for that matter. If someone dies in their early forties of an obesity related illness (cardiac, diabetes, etc.) and has a family, the overall earning power of the family is diminished and the state has to pay more money to support the family in general (Social Security for surviving spouses and children, additional benefits depending on the reduced income, etc.), it has a far-reaching impact on the economy.

    Also, obesity has other impacts: if people are too overweight to walk, they drive cars and they have to be large enough to accommodate their size, which increases traffic and release of carbon. Public transportation is impacted since fewer people can fit into a subway car, which means fewer paying customers. The only people who make out are airlines, since they require the purchase of two seats. Then again if you’re the one bumped from a flight and stranded in Topeka for an extra day, it has a direct impact on your life.

    I could go on, but y’all get the picture. I’m not a self-righteous yogini with a smokin’ bod….in fact, I run towards chubby thanks to my born to work in the fields Hungarian genes. I also know what an impact an early heart attack can have on a family, so I might as well do an extra couple of sun salutations to offset the goulash.

    • Maha Garuda

      You lose me when referencing an economic impact on society. In the US we spend billions of dollars on jet aircraft that nobody wants and nobody says Boo to that, yet when a family is torn apart from acute illnesses. My own Father died when I was 5 from a heart attack. After 26 years of hard living in the USMC, his heart gave out. If not for SS benefits, we would have been out on the street. Compassionate care in civilized societies ought not be an economic football. Think what you might about The Affordable Care Act, at least it is a step to catching up with the rest of the first world. The disparity of income is growing, because capitalist views social responsibility as a private matter, not a cause for the public sector to manage, yet we feed the war machine without blinking an eye and turn our heads to the loss of life that we foster throughout the third world. Then we feed bread and circuses to the home folk and wonder why they have gotten so round.

      • Linda

        Hey Maha:

        I’m actually a major lefty, but I’m also a numbers cruncher for a living. My point is that the cost of Social Security and other social programs bear the burden of an increase in early death. Numbers are numbers, politics is something else.

        Should defense spending be shifted to social programs? Asbofrickinlutely. Should people be responsible for taking care of themselves? Ditto.

        In terms of public health initiatives, obesity is the new smoking. Once upon a time we could smoke anywhere any time and now you can’t even light up in a public park in Boston, MA (the bill was just signed today). Why? Because they (both liberal and conservative analysts) saw the economic impact of smoking-related illnesses and realized that the money the tobacco lobby pumps into congress was not enough to cover the costs incurred by early death by something that was within a person’s control. Quitting sucks (believe me, I know), but it is do-able.

        The same thing goes for obesity. Some folks are born with the thin genes and some of us consider “Baby Got Back” to be a personal anthem. If you fall into the latter like me, I realized that I have to take better care of myself than someone who can eat a pumpkin pie and call it a vegetable.

  4. Linda

    Also, sorry for the overuse of the word impact. It’s too early to type.

  5. Maha Garuda

    Ok I will put down the 4th piece of pumpkin cheesecake…Just kidding,,,I will however go to the Prana warehouse sale for the Helipad sized yoga mat. When I work in my yoga swing, it is nice to have a greater foundation for traction. I work with all sizes of people in my classes. I find the greater challenges to be working with exceptionally tall people. One guy is a 7 footer. You try doing adjustments on that large an animal…Luckily, my Mother in Law is a lousy cook, so overindulgence will not be an issue tomorrow

  6. I AM a health-services manager and it’s much more convoluted and insidious that what’s posted here.

    True, the preventative aspects have not nearly been explored rigorously enough with respect to keeping health care costs low and yes, in many ways the poor or marginalized have to pay more for their lifestyle choices. Most of those choices have nothing to do with “choices” but are just a way to survive, yet we live in a society which time and time again punishes people for their poverty. Like in this case:

    This doesn’t even touch on the way for instance, corporate interests like fast-food suppliers have been steadily increasing their portion sizes since at least 1978. “The Big Gulp” didn’t exist in the 1970’s and there is no reason why anyone would need to drink that amount of liquid and sugar in one go unless, a) they can’t afford anything else or b) they’ve become addicted to that kind of caffeine and sugar. Furthermore these types of food outlets have been deliberately located in lower-income neighborhoods and areas. Or the way for instance scientifically questionable additives, GMOs and hormones have yet to be tested in bias-free environments and how the FDA consistently gives a free pass these days to agribusiness giants like Monsanto or BASF. Or the way consumers are now into “food porn” as witnessed by the cult of the celebrity chef and the foodie while many people largely have not taken the time out to learn to cook for themselves. Or the way many public school boards have done away with classes like home economics which would have given students the skill set to learn these things properly. Or even urban planning, where cities have been designed deliberately in such a way where workers are forced to sit through punishing commutes to and from work, with subdivisions plunked down in the middle of nowhere so that people have no choice but to get into a car to buy a quart of milk instead of being able to walk to the corner store. These things incrementally are impacting our health which in turn has translated into skyrocketing rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
    So rather than blaming individuals for health outcomes and health care costs maybe we need to start looking at the health systems and societal dynamics instead and what perpetuates these health outcomes?
    Americans can learn a thing or two by studying other cultures and how they tackle “health” like Japan who have one of the highest life expectancy rates and lowest cancer rates,for instance or France where everyone eats butter, cheese, wine and chocolate regularly yet remain rail thin or Sweden where 70 year olds regularly meet for marathon sessions of cross-country skiing or Italy and Greece where everyone is out walking in the streets after dinner.


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