Report: Annual $1 trillion economic cost of chronic disease could be avoided
The annual economic impact on the U.S. economy of the most common chronic diseases is more than $1 trillion, which could balloon to nearly $6 trillion by mid-century, and yet the cost is avoidable, according to a new report from the Milken Institute.

The report, “An Unhealthy America: The Economic Burden of Chronic Disease,” focuses on the economic loss associated with preventable illness and the cost to the nation’s gross domestic product and American businesses in lost growth.

According to the study, seven chronic diseases (cancer, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart disease, pulmonary conditions and mental illness) have an annual impact on the economy of $1.3 trillion. Of that amount, $1.1 trillion represents the cost of lost productivity.

“The good news is that with moderate improvements in prevention and early intervention such as reducing the rate of obesity, the savings to the economy would be enormous,” said Ross DeVol, director of health economics and regional economics at the Milken Institute and principal author of the report.

The report also estimates the avoidable costs if a serious effort were made to improve individual health. Milken researchers determined that by 2023 the U.S. could avoid 40 million cases of chronic disease and reduce the economic impact of chronic disease by 27 percent or $1.1 trillion annually. Obesity is the most important factor and if rates decline, could lead to $60 billion less in costs and $254 billion in increased productivity.

To reduce the human and economic cost of disease, the Milken Institute calls for:
  • More incentives to promote prevention and early intervention; and
  • A renewed national commitment to achieve a “healthy body weight.”
Using the reported number of the disease per capita, the Milken report also ranked all 50 states. West Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky and Mississippi have the highest rates of chronic disease, and the lowest rates are Utah, Alaska, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.