Health risks identified and linked to higher medical care costs
The association between health risks and medical expenditures in a Japanese corporation. Lynch WD, Chikamoto Y, Imai K, Lin TF, Kenkel DS, Ozminkowski RJ, et al. J Occup Environ Med. 2005. 19 (Suppl): 238-248.
To investigate the relationship between health risk factors and medical care costs.
6,543 employees from a Japanese electronics company who were enrolled in a health insurance plan and had undergone a physical check up in 1999 and 2000 and completed a health risk appraisal (HRA).
Medical care costs were recorded in 2000 and compared with data collected during check-ups and the HRA.
- The most common risk factors were lack of exercise (52.9%), current smoking (35.0%), stress (33.0%) and poor nutritional habits (23.6%).
- Accounting for other risk factors, employees who had recently quit smoking incurred 76.0% higher medical care costs (US$289) and those with high blood pressure incurred 22.6% higher costs ($340) than those without these risk factors.
- Individuals with multiple cardiovascular disease risk factors had up to 128% higher costs ($1,204) than individuals without these risk factors.
- Strangely, smoking, poor nutrition and alcohol intake were associated with reduced medical care costs; but this could be because the HRA was not tailored to a Japanese population and to the length of the study.
What does this mean?
The authors suggest that such data could help health promotion efforts in Japan and direct future investigations of health risks and medical costs. However, some risk factors are likely to be cultural-specific and population-specific.