The association between adiposity and inpatient hospital costs in the UK Biobank cohort
Background High adiposity is associated with higher risks for a variety of adverse health outcomes, including higher rates of age-adjusted mortality and increased morbidity. This has important implications for the management of healthcare systems, since the endocrinal, cardiometabolic and other changes associated with increased adiposity may be associated with substantial healthcare costs. Methods We studied the association between various measures of adiposity and inpatient hospital costs through record linkage between UK Biobank and records of inpatient care in England and Wales. UK Biobank is a large prospective cohort study that aimed to recruit men and women aged between 40 and 69 from 2006 to 2010. We applied generalised linear models to cost per person year to estimate the marginal effect and averaged adjusted predicted cost of adiposity on inpatient costs. Results Valid cost and body mass index (BMI) data from 457,689 participants were available for inferential analysis. Some 54.4% of individuals included in the analysis sample had positive inpatient healthcare costs over the period of follow-up. Median hospital costs per person year of follow-up were GBP89, compared to mean costs of GBP481. Mean BMI overall was 27.4 kg/m2 (standard deviation 4.8). The marginal effect of a unit increase in BMI was GBP13.61 (99% confidence interval: GBP12.60 to GBP14.63) per person year of follow up. The marginal effect of a standard deviation increase in BMI was GBP69.20 (99% confidence interval: GBP64.98 to GBP73.42). The marginal effect of becoming obese was GBP136.35 (99% confidence interval: GBP124.62 to GBP148.08). Average adjusted predicted inpatient hospital costs increased almost linearly when modelled using continuous measure of adiposity. Sensitivity analysis of different scenarios did not substantially change these conclusions, although there was some evidence of attenuation of the effects of adiposity when controlling for waist-hip ratios, and when individuals who self-reported any pre-existing conditions were excluded from analysis. Conclusions Higher adiposity is associated with higher inpatient hospital costs. Further scrutiny using causal inferential methods is warranted to establish if further public health investments are required to manage the large healthcare costs observationally associated with overweight and obesity.
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