Open Access Open Badges Research article

Economic costs of obesity in Thailand: a retrospective cost-of-illness study

Paiboon Pitayatienanan12, Rukmanee Butchon2, Jomkwan Yothasamut2, Wichai Aekplakorn3, Yot Teerawattananon2, Naeti Suksomboon24 and Montarat Thavorncharoensap12*

Author Affiliations

1 Social and Administrative Pharmacy Division, Department of Pharmacy, Faculty of Pharmacy, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand

2 Health Intervention and Technology Assessment Program (HITAP), Ministry of Public Health, Nonthaburi, Thailand

3 Faculty of Medicine, Ramathibodi Hospital, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand

4 Clinical Pharmacy Division, Department of Pharmacy, Faculty of Pharmacy, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand

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BMC Health Services Research 2014, 14:146  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-14-146

Published: 2 April 2014



Over the last decade, the prevalence of obesity (BMI ≥ 25 kg/m2) in Thailand has been rising rapidly and consistently. Estimating the cost of obesity to society is an essential step in setting priorities for research and resource use and helping improve public awareness of the negative economic impacts of obesity. This prevalence-based, cost-of-illness study aims to estimate the economic costs of obesity in Thailand.


The estimated costs in this study included health care cost, cost of productivity loss due to premature mortality, and cost of productivity loss due to hospital-related absenteeism. The Obesity-Attributable Fraction (OAF) was used to estimate the extent to which the co-morbidities were attributable to obesity. The health care cost of obesity was further estimated by multiplying the number of patients in each disease category attributable to obesity by the unit cost of treatment. The cost of productivity loss was calculated using the human capital approach.


The health care cost attributable to obesity was estimated at 5,584 million baht or 1.5% of national health expenditure. The cost of productivity loss attributable to obesity was estimated at 6,558 million baht - accounting for 54% of the total cost of obesity. The cost of hospital-related absenteeism was estimated at 694 million baht, while the cost of premature mortality was estimated at 5,864 million baht. The total cost of obesity was then estimated at 12,142 million baht (725.3 million US$PPP, 16.74 baht =1 US$PPP accounting for 0.13% of Thailand’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).


Obesity imposes a substantial economic burden on Thai society especially in term of health care costs. Large-scale comprehensive interventions focused on improving public awareness of the cost of and problems associated with obesity and promoting a healthy lifestyle should be regarded as a public health priority.

Cost-of-illness; Obesity; Overweight; Thailand; Economic