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Cost of Diabetes Trickles Down to Reduced Local Spending

Nov 29, 2005

Diabetes, long known to be a costly disease because of high medical expenses and lost wages, can also take a big bite out of the local economy, according to a study.

Numerous studies have analyzed the direct and indirect costs of diabetes at the national level. This study, by researchers at several universities in Texas, examined for the first time the financial impact of diabetes upon local communities.

The study found that, for every $1 of lost income due to diabetes, another 36 cents is lost in reduced local spending. "No matter how you look at it, diabetes is a costly disease," said lead researcher Dr. H. Shelton Brown, III, PhD, in the Division of Management Policy and Community Health at the University of Texas School of Public Health. "Those costs extend well beyond the price of medical care and lost wages when people become incapacitated due to illness."

"Adults with diabetes who are not working spend less, hurting the local economy," the study concluded. "In a small community with a high prevalence of diabetes, the indirect costs of diabetes are quite high and are not limited to adults with diabetes alone. Given these results, policies to prevent diabetes should be especially supported in communities with a high prevalence of diabetes precisely because of its broad economic impact on the entire community."

The study looked at the financial impact of lost income due to diabetes in four counties (Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr and Willacy) in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. In this region, the largely Mexican-American community has a 25 percent prevalence of type 2 diabetes.

Previous studies have shown that men and women with diabetes were roughly 7.5 percent less likely to work than men and women without diabetes; that women with diabetes earn $3,584.53 less than women without diabetes; and that men with diabetes earn $1,584.66 less than men without diabetes (Brown, Pagan and Bastida 2005 and Bastida and Pagan 2002).

This study showed that, because people with diabetes worked less, and earned less when they did work, than those who did not have diabetes, they also spent less in the local economy. Lower local spending can lead to layoffs and further reduced spending by others in the community who do not have diabetes but are impacted by its cost to the community at large.

Diabetes Care, Dec. 2005


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