Cost of Illness

polaris economic evaluation - cost of illness analysis
Image of a heart and a coin on top of it.

What is cost of illness analysis?

Cost of illness analysis is a way of measuring medical and other costs resulting from a specific disease or condition. For example, heart disease in the United States costs more than $321 billion each year—$193 billion in direct medical costs and $128 billion in lost productivity from early death.

What inputs are included?

Cost of illness analysis may include direct costs, productivity losses, and intangible costs of a disease or injury. Direct costs from a disease or condition may include:

  • Medical costs, such as the cost of diagnostic tests, physician office visits, and drugs and medical supplies
  • Non-medical costs, such as travel costs for obtaining care and related childcare costs.
  • Productivity losses include impacts of patient and caregiver participation in an intervention, such as work or leisure time lost due to participation in the intervention. These costs are generally more complicated to measure than direct costs.

What output does a cost of illness analysis provide?

Cost of illness analysis provides the economic costs of an illness, injury, or risk factor.

Example of Cost of Illness Analysis:

Salmonella Listeria
Burden of Salmonella and Listeria, 2011
Cases 1,027,600 1,600
Hospitalizations 19,300 1,500
Deaths 376 255
Medical Costs $313M $138M
Productivity Losses $81M $48M
Total cost of illness
medical + productivity losses
$394M $186M
Average cost or cost per case
total cost/number of cases
$393 $116,250

How can decision makers use this information?

Cost of illness analysis provides decision makers information on the economic burden of a disease or condition, which offers a sense of how big a problem is. This can, in turn, inform priority setting. However, as you can see from the example above, costs are only one part of the picture.


CDC Introduction to Economic Evaluation

Course providing a broad overview of economic evaluation methods with illustrative examples from public health