Melbourne, Feb 13: Researchers have found that smokers and the overweight actually cost the public health system less than healthy people because they live longer and the taxpayer has to deal with the cost of ''lingering diseases of old age such as Alzheimers and Parkinsons.'' The Netherlands National Institute for Public Health and Environment found that while 'a person of normal weight costs on average 458,000 dollars over their lifetime,' a smoker clocks up just 359,000 dollars and the obese run up an average 407,000 dollars bill.
The study led by Pieter van Baal found the underlying mechanism is that there is a substitution of inexpensive, lethal diseases towards less lethal, and therefore more costly diseases. Smokers cost the least because they tend to die younger. And being overweight lowers medical bills because it raises the risk of diseases such as diabetes which decrease life expectancy, the report said. But Dieticians Association of Australia nutrition expert Clare Collins said the study was no reason to lay down or light up.
'They are trying to prove that if you are healthy you cost more but that is just the health care system not personal cost and does not consider how much the person contributes to the tax system,'' she said. ''People who lead a healthy life, who work and pay tax, will put more into the system then sick and dying people during the latter part of their lives,'' the Daily Telegraph quoted her as saying.
Dr Collins said while the study would be good for healthcare planning, it was based on hypothetical situations and did not take into account anything but economics. Weight related disease and injury cost Australia 21 billion dollars in 2005 alone, study showed.