Obesity Among U.S. Workers Has Hefty Price Tag: Study

Biggest part of the $73 billion spent by employers was due to lost productivity on the job, data shows

FRIDAY, Oct. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Obese workers cost U.S. employers $73.1 billion, a new study has found.

That estimated cost of obesity among full-time workers included three factors: medical costs, lost productivity on the job due to health problems (presenteeism), and absence from work. The study included individuals who were normal weight, overweight and obese.

In measuring presenteeism, the study authors looked at the gap between when employees arrived at the workplace and actually began working, as well as periods when they worked slowly or lost concentration, among other things.

Duke University researchers analyzed data from the 2006 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey and the 2008 U.S. National Health and Wellness Survey and concluded that the per capita costs of obesity are as much as $16,900 for obese women and $15,500 for obese men.

Presenteeism accounted for the largest part of those costs: 56 percent for women and 68 percent for men, according to the results of the study published Oct. 8 in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

"Our study provides evidence of yet another cost of obesity. Employers should consider both the medical and productivity costs of obesity when thinking about investments in weight management or other wellness programs," study leader Eric Finkelstein, deputy director for health services and systems research at Duke-National University of Singapore, said in a Duke news release.

Employers should promote healthy foods in the workplace, encourage a company-wide culture of wellness, and provide economic and other incentives to workers who strive to improve their health by losing weight, maintaining a healthy weight and/or taking part in other healthy lifestyle behaviors, Finkelstein suggested.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about overweight and obesity.

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