Healthcare usage and economic impact of non-treated obesity in Italy: Findings from a retrospective administrative and clinical database analysis

Annamaria Colao, Marcello Lucchese, Monica D'Adamo, Silvia Savastano, Enrico Facchiano, Chiara Veronesi, Valerio Blini, Luca Degli Esposti, Paolo Sbraccia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives Investigate the prevalence of obesity in Italy and examine its resource consumption and economic impact on the Italian national healthcare system (NHS). Design Retrospective, observational and real-life study. Setting Data from three health units from Northern (Bergamo, Lombardy), Central (Grosseto, Tuscany) and Southern (Naples, Campania) Italy. Participants All patients aged ≥18years with at least one recorded body mass index (BMI) measurement between 1 January 2009 and 31 December 2012 were included. Interventions Information retrieved from the databases included primary care data, medical prescriptions, specialist consultations and hospital discharge records from 2009-2013. Costs associated with these data were also calculated. Data are presented for two time periods (1year after BMI measurement and study end). Primary and secondary outcome measures Primary - to estimate health resources consumption and the associated economic impact on the Italian NHS. Secondary - the prevalence and characteristics of subjects by BMI category. Results 20 159 adult subjects with at least one documented BMI measurement. Subjects with BMI ≥30 kg/m 2 were defined as obese. The prevalence of obesity was 22.2% (N=4471) and increased with age. At the 1-year observation period, obese subjects who did not receive treatment for their obesity experienced longer durations of hospitalisation (median length: 5 days vs 3days), used more prescription drugs (75.0% vs 57.7%), required more specialised outpatient healthcare (mean number: 5.3 vs 4.4) and were associated with greater costs, primarily owing to prescription drugs and hospital admissions (mean annual cost per year per patient: €460.6 vs €288.0 for drug prescriptions, €422.7 vs € 279.2 for hospitalisations and €283.2 vs €251.7 for outpatient care), compared with normal weight subjects. Similar findings were observed for the period up to data cut-off (mean follow-up of 2.7years). Conclusions Untreated obesity has a significant economic impact on the Italian healthcare system, highlighting the need to raise awareness and proactively treat obese subjects.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere013899
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Body mass index
  • Healthcare resource consumption
  • Obesity
  • Real-life study
  • Retrospective

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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