AUSTIN, Texas – Obesity costs Texas businesses $9.5 billion annually and if the obesity rate and the cost of health care continue to increase as projected, the cost to businesses could reach $32.5 billion per year by 2030, Texas Comptroller Susan Combs said this week.

The price tag for obesity is almost triple an estimate Combs released in 2007.

“Texas businesses are paying an enormous price for obesity, diverting dollars that could be invested in business expansion, job creation and building a strong Texas economy,” Combs said.

Combs released a new report, Gaining Costs, Losing Time: The Obesity Crisis in Texas, that uses updated data and new research by leading health economists to re-calculate the cost to Texas employers of obesity-related health care, absenteeism, decreased productivity and disability.

Gaining Costs, Losing Time estimates Texas employers paid $4 billion in direct health insurance costs in 2009. Indirectly, obesity cost employers an estimated $5.4 billion in 2009, including $1.6 billion for obesity-related absenteeism, $3.5 billion for reduced work productivity and $321.8 million for obesity-linked disability.

Two-thirds of adult Texans – 66.7 percent – were overweight or obese in 2009, higher than the national rate of 63.2 percent. Among Texas children aged 10 to 17, 20.4 percent are obese, compared to 16.4 percent of U.S. children. Obese kids have an 80 percent chance of staying obese their entire lives.

Gaining Costs, Losing Time identifies successful efforts to combat obesity through workplace wellness programs; higher nutritional standards for school meals; increased emphasis on physical education and nutrition awareness in public schools; and community-based initiatives to help children and adults lose weight and achieve healthier lifestyles. The report includes recommendations to encourage and invest in obesity prevention and intervention programs.

“Exciting programs and initiatives are occurring throughout Texas,” Combs said on intervention efforts.