Malnutrition Comes with Significant Price Tag

A report published in the Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (JPEN) estimated disease-associated malnutrition (DAM) costs the economy more than $157 billion annually, with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), depression, and dementia contributing most to the costs.

A report published in the Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (JPEN) estimated disease-associated malnutrition (DAM) costs the economy more than $157 billion annually, with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), depression, and dementia contributing most to the costs.

Estimating the economic impact of DAM in the US, Julia Thornton Snider, PhD, and colleagues analyzed direct medical costs, quality-adjusted life years lost, and mortality related to breast cancer, COPD, colorectal cancer (CRC), coronary heart disease (CHD), dementia, depression, musculoskeletal disorders, and stroke.

The $156.7 billion yearly price tag, amounting to $508 per person, is widely due to morbidities caused by DAM (80%). While malnutrition tied to COPD and depression had the highest aggregate costs, the per person burden was the most expensive for malnourished CRC and CHD patients.

Abbott Laboratories, who funded the study, also found that despite the elderly being a small portion (13%) of the study’s focus, malnutrition of patients over 65 costs resulted in $51.3 billion (33%) in yearly damages.

Based on their alarming discovery, the researchers pressed for the implementation of improved measures which will identify and manage at-risk individuals. Abbott cited that 60% of patients claimed that they have never been screened for malnutrition.

"Particularly among older people, malnutrition can often go under the radar because the focus is on treating their primary condition," Robert H. Miller, PhD the Divisional Vice President of Research and Development (R&D) and Scientific and Medical Affairs at Abbott Nutrition said in a press release. "With new research showing the burden that malnutrition has on our community and our health care systems, doctors, hospitals and caregivers should factor in the importance of nutrition and nutritional screenings to help improve health outcomes for people at risk for malnutrition."