Health care costs of unhealthy behavior

Zorgkosten van ongezond gedrag. Zorg voor euro's - 3


Unhealthy behaviour is currently the focus of increasing interest. And not without reason. Smoking and overweight, for example, are important causes of ill-health, disease, and health care consumption. In 2003, throughout the Netherlands, well over two billion euros were spent on care that was related to the effects of smoking. This involved cardiovascular disease, stroke, lung cancer, and chronic respiratory conditions (COPD). In that same year, health care costs related to the effects of overweight amounted to nearly 1.2 billion euros. Here too, cardiovascular disease is out in front, closely followed by diabetes and musculoskeletal conditions. These findings are in line with the scientific literature. An analyses of cross-national differences, however, was hampered by huge variations in methods and results. Despite the high costs associated with smoking and obesity, unhealthy behaviour is only responsible for a limited part of the current cost of care, mainly due to the prevalence of diseases with high costs and no relation with these determinants, such as dementia and intellectual disabilities. Furthermore this report demonstrates that prevention and health promotion will - in the long term - will lead to an increase in health care expenditure. Of course, this does not detract from the fact that healthy behaviour can produce considerable gains in terms of health. In this regard, it is worth considering whether the government should allow its course to be determined by health care costs, as such, or should focus on the value of health. In any case economic analyses can help to achieve health gains as efficiently as possible. Prevention, and the promotion of healthy behaviour will undoubtedly play a major part in this endeavour.

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