Being unhealthy is never pleasant. And the medical problems that result from obesity, what we doctors call “co-morbid disease” are particularly nasty. Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some forms of cancer can all result from carrying too much weight and life expectancy is reduced by 9 years. Doctors often talk to patients about the costs of being overweight, and by that we mean the medical, or health consequences. But that’s not where the costs end. The financial cost of being overweight can also be high, but difficult to quantify. Until now that is. American researchers have just put a financial price on being overweight. And the news is worse for women than it is for men.

The research team from George Washington University headed by Avi Dor, a Professor of Health Economics worked out just how much being overweight or obese is going to cost us, as individuals. The calculation is made by looking at medical bills (not such an issue here in the UK) but also time off work though ill health, loss of income and disability. Being overweight (BMI 25-29.9) the authors say, will cost women £330 a year, and men £270. But being obese, or about 2 stones above healthy weight (BMI 30+) will cost a woman a staggering £3000 and a man £1600 every year of their life. Even allowing for a reduction in these numbers to make them UK friendly, they still make worrying reading.

What price health? Most of us would agree that our health is the most precious thing we have. Invaluable. And yet so often we take it for granted, until something goes wrong and we start to take it seriously. A healthy diet, active lifestyle and just 10% body weight loss can in many cases reduce the risks back to normal. The diseases that result from being overweight and obesity are preventable and the costs therefore avoidable. So, how much time do you invest in your health? Not enough? What price will you put on your own health? Making the decision to lose weight might turn out to be the best investment you ever make.