The cost of chronic disease

The heavy toll of chronic illness
The heavy toll of chronic illness © Katherine Welles/

Chronic disease is a difficult challenge for afflicted individuals, and because of its pervasiveness it has also become a significant problem for the nation, causing 70 percent of U.S. deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Chronic health problems such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer and kidney disease account for more than 75 percent of the nation's $2.7 trillion in annual spending for medical care, says Ursula Bauer of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A long list of burdens contributes to the cost of chronic illness in America, says Bauer, who is director of the CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

"They make it difficult for us to age in place in our homes and communities," she says. "They strain our families and our physical care systems. ... They take a toll on our employers and businesses, who are often shouldering the costs of these chronic diseases."

Families with employer-sponsored health care have greater out-of-pocket costs when dealing with chronic sickness, according to a November 2011 study from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. High prescription drug copayments were the main cause of the difference. And illness impacts wealth. A 2010 study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that the healthiest people accumulate at least 50 percent more assets in retirement than those with the poorest health.

Read on for a breakdown of the financial toll of six of the most common chronic ailments.


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