Obese Employees Cost Nation Billion of Dollars in Lost Productivity, Absenteeism


A study published in a recent Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine notes that the obesity epidemic contributes significantly to workplace absenteeism. As a result, it’s costing the nation billions of dollars annually.

“Obesity-attributable absenteeism among American workers costs the nation an estimated $8.65 billion per year,” says Yale University’s Tatiana Andreyeva, PhD. Her team refers to the situation has having a large impact throughout the entire country, not just a select few regions. According to Andreyeva’s team, “Obesity-attributable costs of absenteeism are substantial and impose a considerate financial drain on states.”(1)

Obese Employees Miss More Work Days Than Healthier Workers

For the study, the researchers analyzed data across the nation, assessing obesity-attributable workdays missed due to health. They then examined these associated costs on the state level. They found that obese workers miss more work days than their healthier-weight colleagues: an average of 1.1 to 1.7 more absences yearly. Ultimately, they determined that obesity was linked to an average 9.3 percent of total absenteeism costs, with the highest amount observed in Arkansas (12.6 percent).(1)

The study, titled, “State-Level Estimates of Obesity-Attributable Costs of Absenteeism,” concludes that “Obesity imposes a considerable financial burden on states, accounting for 6.5% to 12.6% of total absenteeism costs in the workplace. State legislatures and employers should seek effective ways to reduce these costs.”(2)

It’s no secret that obesity and certain health risks go hand in hand.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity contributes to a variety of health problems ranging from Type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea to liver disease and cancers of the breast and colon.(3)

With more time likely spent tending to these detrimental health issues rather than performing at work, loss in workplace productivity becomes a concern.

Workplace Wellness Programs, Fitness Devices at Work May Help Fight Obesity

To promote health in the workplace, many work environments have programs in place to help their employees reach healthier goals. With everything from fitness and wellness programs in place, employees can not only lose weight, but alleviate stress and boost their ability to focus. This in turn benefits the employers, who experience increased staff morale, less turnover and reduced absenteeism.(4)

Such workplace wellness programs often result in an employee’s weight loss. Regular incentives, which include everything from financial gifts to ongoing personal encouragement, play a role in helping a person stay on track.

There’s even a spike in the use of fitness equipment that people can use while they work.

For example, the concept of “active sitting” allows employees to exercise in a mostly-inconspicuous way that doesn’t even involve wearing gym clothes. From the comfort of their own desk, they can strengthen their abs and improve posture with the use of a special balancing chair. There are even under-desk pedals to mimic the motion of a pedal bike, which many have said has helped them lose weight and reduce leg pains they developed from excessive sitting.(5)

Sources for this article include:

(1) http://www.sciencedaily.com/
(2) http://journals.lww.com/
(3) http://www.cdc.gov/
(4) http://www.who.int/
(5) http://www.naturalnews.com/