Report: U.S. economic burden of chronic diseases tops $3.8 trillion—and expected to double

The U.S. economic burden of chronic diseases such as Alzheimer's, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and cancer has reached about $3.8 trillion in direct and indirect costs—or nearly one-fifth of GDP, according to a new report from Fitch Solutions, which is a unit of Fitch Group.

And as the baby boomer population ages alongside a concurrent increase in the prevalence of noncommunicable diseases, that figure is expected to double within the next 30 years, Fitch reports.

"This considerable financial burden is ultimately borne by society as a whole, but the individuals affected by these chronic diseases will be disproportionately impacted," the report said.

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According to the report, aggregate annual costs of the leading chronic medical conditions are approximately $1.1 trillion due to expenses from hospital care, physician visits, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and home care.  

But indirect costs, such as diminished productivity, early retirement and premature mortality, are about $3.7 trillion.

Among the disease-specific findings, the report pointed out the total cost of diabetes diagnoses jumped to $327 billion in 2017 from $245 billion in 2012. Meanwhile, direct costs for heart disease reached $318 billion in 2017. Total arthritis-attributable medical expenditure and earnings losses in 2013 reached $304 billion, the report said.   

Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia in the U.S. are estimated to cost $290 billion in 2019, and estimated direct medical costs for cancer were $80 billion in 2015.