Our study showed that the prevalence of obesity in United States hospital discharges is 8.11 percent, with a growing trend among males and females, all races, and both rural and urban areas. In addition, while the overall low, medium, and high risk of death in obese hospitalized patients was higher than in non-obese hospitalized patients, the overall mortality in non-obese hospitalized patients was higher. Furthermore, the total mean charge, admission period, and average hospital stay were greater than in obese hospitalized patients. Interestingly, analysis showed that the risk of death in hospital among obese hospitalized patients was decreased approximately 24%, compared to non-obese inpatients. However, evidence showed that any comorbidity could increase the likelihood of hospital death among obese hospitalized patients, but uncomplicated diabetes and hypertension had protective role with regard to in-hospital mortality. Data revealed that obese hospitalized patients had the highest rates of comorbidities such as diabetes with chronic complications, uncomplicated diabetes, pulmonary circulation disorders, depression, congestive heart failure, chronic pulmonary disease, hypertension, renal failure, hypothyroidism, psychoses, and liver disease.
Although the acceleration in obesity prevalence slowed in the general United States population since 2007 (11), it has increased among hospitalized patients and is expected to rise in coming years. Consequently, we expect increased length of hospital stay and hospital costs.
Obesity is an important risk factor for mortality, associated with metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and certain types of cancer. In addition, numerous studies have analyzed obesity as an independent risk factor for all-cause mortality. However, few studies have compared admission disease severity, risk of dying, and mortality between obese and non-obese hospital patients. Based on the findings of our study, although the total moderate, major, and extreme likelihood of death based on admission disease severity was higher in obese individuals, in-hospital mortality was higher in non-obese patients. It is difficult to explain this result, but it might be related to little data about the relationship between obesity and chronic disease outcomes, especially among hospitalized individuals (9). Another possible explanation for this outcome is the significant weight loss that comes with progression of many severe chronic diseases associated with obesity. For example, in patients over 65 years of age, increases in severe chronic diseases are associated with increased rates of sarcopenic obesity defined by changes in body composition, such as high body fat, reduced muscle mass, and possible weight loss (12, 13). Furthermore, a previous study found obesity in hospitalized sepsis patients to be significantly associated with a 16 % decrease in mortality (14). Such findings add to the emerging evidence base about the paradox of obesity. This is an important issue for future research.
Day-to-day expenditures of hospital care are important components for the overall budget of a health care system. The findings of our research indicate that, although the mean age of non-obese hospitalized patients was higher than that of obese patients, length of stay and mean total charges were higher among obese patients. Other studies have shown that higher BMI is associated with increased length of stay (9). Per the HCUP database, the average cost of a single hospitalization in the United States is $10,700 (9). Obesity is an important risk factor for the conditions that collectively account for more than 70% of all hospital costs (9). Furthermore, in 2004, the mean length of stay in U.S. hospitals with comorbid obesity was 4.9 days. Since that time, average length of stay has increased by more than five days, with an associated increase in cost.
Obesity-related comorbidites lead to increase mortality and health care expenditures. Our findings revealed that all studied comorbidities, with the exception of uncomplicated diabetes and hypertension, increase the probability of in-hospital death among obese hospitalized patients. Some comorbidities were particularly prevalent in obese hospitalized patients compared to non-obese patients, including diabetes, pulmonary circulation disorders, depression, congestive heart failure, chronic pulmonary disease, hypertension, renal failure, hypothyroidism, psychosis, and liver disease. These results were largely consistent with those of a recent APNA study (15) and a WV Padula study(16). This large study indicated that increasing BMI is associated with glucose intolerance, dyslipidemia, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, kidney failure, osteoarthritis, asthma, heart failure, severe mental disorders, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (15). Obesity complications such as depression and cardiovascular disease have also been shown to adversely affect quality of life (17) and increase both domestic health spending and medical expenses (16, 18). Greater understanding of the financial implications of obesity and its associated comorbidities could aid in developing programs and policies to curb healthcare spending.