Bad Habits

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.


  • 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.


  • 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. Published November 13, 2015. Accessed May 17, 2016.

Cocchi R. Top 10 lists: most common & most costly OR procedures. Healthcare Business & Technology website. Published February 25, 2014. Accessed May 17, 2016.

Couch C. How much do bad habits cost? Bankrate website. Accessed May 17, 2016.

Engen M. The real cost of bad habits. Boomer & Echo website. Published December 8, 2015. Accessed May 17, 2016.

Rogers A. The lifetime cost of 13 bad habits. Business Insider website. Published May 22, 2012. Accessed May 17, 2016.

Whelan D. The 10 most expensive common medical conditions. Forbes website. Published February 25, 202. Accessed May 17, 2016.

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