How Much Do Bad Habits Cost?

Poor diet

  • To estimate the cost of eating poorly, you must consider the costs associated with developing heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancer, higher health insurance and life insurance costs, medical expenses, higher food and clothing costs, decreased productivity, and lost wages from missing work.
  • In a study from The George Washington University, researchers found that an overweight man spends $432 a year, and an overweight woman about $524 a year, more than normal weight people. Individuals who are obese, however, have much, much higher costs: $2,646 a year for males and $4,879 for females.

Drinking soda

  • The average American drinks 50 gallons of soda and other sugary drinks each year. In terms of 20 oz bottles, this costs $350 annually and $21,000 over a lifetime.
  • Each additional can of soda drunk per day increases obesity risk by 1.6%; drinking more increases type 2 diabetes risk by up to 80%.

Eating fast food

  • A Big Mac® contains 55% of your maximum daily intake of saturated fat and 45% of your maximum daily intake of sodium, along with 590 calories.
  • Eating French fries every day would cause you to gain about 3.3 pounds over a four-year period.
  • The risks of liver disease, heart disease, and diabetes increase as a result of regularly eating fast food.

Tobacco

  • The yearly cost of smoking is about $2,555 for cigarettes if someone smokes a pack a day at $7 a pack.
  • If this money were saved for 30 years with compounding interest, it would return $201,994 assuming a 6% return.
  • Researchers from Duke University and the University of South Florida estimated that a male spends about $106,000 and a female about $220,000 including social costs imposed on others via Medicare, Medicaid, and life insurance.
  • Life insurance increased by 20% for smokers.
  • Quitting smoking at the age of 39 “reduces the excess risk of death from any cause by up to 90% according to a January 2013 New England Journal of Medicine The risk of death returns to the same risk as a nonsmoker within 12 months.
  • 90% of lung cancer cases result from smoking.
  • Homes owned by smokers sell for 10-15% less than market value of comparable properties in the same area.
  • The resale value of a smoker’s car is 5-10% lower than a comparable car owned by a non-smoker.
  • Other costs to consider include: increased laundry and dry cleaning costs, more frequent repainting of interior walls, increased dental bills, and the costs associated with accelerated aging.

Alcohol

  • The yearly cost of regularly drinking alcohol (five drinks per week at $6 each) is estimated to be $1,560.
  • If this money were saved for 30 years with compounding interest, it would return $123,331 assuming a 6% return.
  • Getting a DUI or DWI costs about $10,000 in fines, bail, towing, insurance, legal fees, treatment, and license reinstatement cost.
  • For a male, drinking three drinks a day increases the risk of dying from any type of cancer by 41%. For females, drinking two alcoholic beverages a day increases the risk of dying from any type of cancer by 20%.

References and recommended readings

Andre C, Velasquez M, and Mazur T. Voluntary health risks: who should pay? Santa Clara University website. https://www.scu.edu/ethics/focus-areas/bioethics/resources/voluntary-health-risks-who-should-pay/. Published November 13, 2015. Accessed May 17, 2016.

Cocchi R. Top 10 lists: most common & most costly OR procedures. Healthcare Business & Technology website. http://www.healthcarebusinesstech.com/most-common-costly-or-procedures/. Published February 25, 2014. Accessed May 17, 2016.

Couch C. How much do bad habits cost? Bankrate website. http://www.bankrate.com/finance/smart-spending/bad-habits-cost-1.aspx. Accessed May 17, 2016.

Engen M. The real cost of bad habits. Boomer & Echo website. http://boomerandecho.com/the-real-cost-of-bad-habits/. Published December 8, 2015. Accessed May 17, 2016.

Rogers A. The lifetime cost of 13 bad habits. Business Insider website. http://www.businessinsider.com/expensive-bad-habits-2012-5. Published May 22, 2012. Accessed May 17, 2016.

Whelan D. The 10 most expensive common medical conditions. Forbes website. http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidwhelan/2012/02/25/the-10-most-expensive-common-medical-conditions/#2dc91e655a1d. Published February 25, 202. Accessed May 17, 2016.

Contributed by Elaine M. Hinzey, RD, LDN
Review date: 5/14/16