Estimating the Costs of Medicalization

Published in: Social Science and Medicine, v. 70, no. 12, June 2010, p. 1943-1947

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2010

by Peter Conrad, Thomas Mackie, Ateev Mehrotra

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Medicalization is the process by which nonmedical problems become defined and treated as medical problems, usually as illnesses or disorders. There has been growing concern with the possibility that medicalization is driving increased health care costs. In this paper we estimate the medical spending in the U.S. of identified medicalized conditions at approximately $77 billion in 2005, 3.9% of total domestic expenditures on health care. This estimate is based on the direct costs associated with twelve medicalized conditions. Although due to data limitations this estimate does not include all medicalized conditions, it can inform future debates about healthcare spending and medicalization.

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