Diabetes Among Older Americans Cost $133.5 Billion in 1990s
The average person with diabetes lost $2,800 in wages due to early retirement, $630 due to sick days, and $22,100 due to disability. Diabetes is harming the nation’s economy as well as its health, according to a University of Michigan study showing that lost productivity among diabetic Americans born between 1931 and 1941 cost the country nearly $133.5 billion by the year 2000.
"Diabetes has a staggering economic impact as well as serious health effects," said U-M researcher Sandeep Vijan, an assistant professor of internal medicine and lead author of the study.
About 18.2 million Americans are estimated to have diabetes, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that given current trends, one in three people born today will develop the disease.
For the study, Vijan analyzed diabetes-associated mortality, disability, early retirement and work absenteeism among a national household sample of older adults interviewed over an eight-year period.
The average person with diabetes lost $2,800 in wages due to early retirement, $630 due to sick days, and $22,100 due to disability, the researchers discovered. When these results were extended to all diabetics born between 1931 and 1941 – 2.3 million people – the economic losses climbed to $58.6 billion. The study also found $60 billion in lost productivity prior to 1992 in the same age group, suggesting a total productivity loss due to diabetes of nearly $120 billion for the eight-year period analyzed.
The analysis excluded people who were already disabled by diabetes at the start of the study. When the lost productivity of this group was added, the economic toll of the disease mounted to $133.5.
Since the analysis was limited to Americans born between 1931 and 1941, the total cost of productivity lost as a result of diabetes is much greater, the researchers said. Still, they point out that there is room for hope since some of the economic impact of the disease can be attenuated.
Realizing the high economic toll of the disease, employers could offer exercise programs in the workplace, provide and encourage healthy food choices or support disease management programs, all of which can reduce long-term risks of diabetes and its complications.
"Our analyses suggest that such programs are likely to recoup substantial economic gains," Vijan said. "Indeed, economic analyses of diabetes treatment programs should explicitly consider these individual and societal costs, and policy-makers and others who allocate public health and health care resources should be aware of the potential cost savings of improving diabetes treatment programs."
December issue of Health Services Research
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