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Wednesday 30th September 2020

 Vitality study finds modifiable health risks linked to increased health care costs

A newly published study in The Lancet Public Health by global health insurer, Vitality Group, has found modifiable health risks, such as obesity, high blood pressure, and smoking, were linked to over $730 billion in health care spending in the US in 2016. This study comes at the same time new data from the UK has found a strong connection between a higher Vitality status* and lower claims costs.

Researchers from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), an independent global health research centre at the University of Washington School of Medicine, and Vitality Group, found the costs were largely due to five risk factors: overweight and obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, poor diet, and smoking. Spending associated with risk factors in 2016 constituted 27% of the $2.7 trillion spent on health care in the US that was included in the study.

The findings from the study are backed up by additional UK data released from Vitality today which found that claims costs for members with a higher Vitality status - and who therefore were engaged in a healthy and active lifestyle - were significantly less than those with a lower status across the majority of major claims categories. Of Vitality members’ five most common types of claims for the period, cancer claims costs were 25% lower for those with a gold or platinum Vitality status compared to peers with a bronze status; gastrointestinal claims costs were 41% lower; cardiovascular claims were 33% lower, and trauma claims were 30% lower. Interestingly, the same relationship was not seen for musculoskeletal claims which were 2% higher for gold and platinum members.

Vitality members have access to discounts with various partners that will help them take control of their health and wellbeing, including the Allen Carr stop smoking programme, WW to help members reach their target weight, and a discount of up to 40% on healthy food at Waitrose.

Francois Millard, Chief Actuarial Officer, Vitality Group, and a study author, said: “Given that US healthcare expenses are almost double that of other developed nations, we set out to understand how much of these costs could be attributed to modifiable risk factors.

“While the relationship between lifestyle risks and medical conditions is understood, this is the first study to offer a comprehensive analysis of health spending related to these risks. This helps inform how our society is investing its resources, and why health should be at the centre of all policy discussion, not just those related to sickness. We are seeing with COVID-19 that prevention is paramount to our own health and the health of our economies. It's time to apply the same urgency to these other preventable diseases.”

Dr Keith Klintworth, Managing Director, VitalityHealth said: “This is a significant study that illustrates the huge costs tied to poor diets, high blood pressure, smoking, and obesity.

“This new data comes at a time when health has been catapulted to the forefront of people’s minds, and is a timely reminder for a renewed focus on preventing and managing these key risks early before they turn into costly diseases and illnesses.

“At Vitality we want to help more people get active and live healthy lives and we can see that by engaging in our Vitality Programme, members can realise the numerous benefits of taking care of their health and wellbeing.”

Additional study findings:

  • Controllable and treatable risk were strongly related to costly US medical conditions – including cardiovascular disease, cancers, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases.
  • Costs were driven largely by five modifiable risk factors – overweight and obesity (high body mass index), $238.5 billion; high blood pressure, $179.9 billion; high fasting plasma glucose, $171.9 billion; dietary risks, $143.6 billion; and tobacco smoke, $130.0 billion.
  • Health care spending increases significantly with age, with the greatest proportion of risk-attributable spending associated with those aged 65 years and older (44.8%).

*Vitality’s core purpose is to help people live an active and healthy life. Vitality encourages its members to get active and healthy through its Vitality Programme, it rewards people for doing so. Members are given points for doing healthy things and these count towards their Vitality status. The more Vitality points earnt in a plan year, the higher their Vitality status. Everyone starts at Bronze status and by earning more points can progress to Silver, Gold and Platinum.


Notes to editors

For further information, please contact: 
Alexa Chaffer, Head of PR, Vitality