With obesity recognized as a chronic disease, the cost of obesity on one’s health, longevity, and medical expenses with comorbid conditions is slowly becoming more widely recognized. Nationally, it is estimated that obesity costs employers more than $73 billion annually in higher healthcare costs.
However, obesity carries with it additional costs that are not always publically addressed — costs that affect the day-to-day of people’s lives, as well as their livelihood. One of the lesser recognized is absenteeism and its overall impact on productivity at work.
The total economic cost of obesity in the U.S. includes indirect costs, such as missed time from work, lost productivity at work, and premature death due to obesity-related health problems. Obesity can cause exhaustion, inability to focus, decreased confidence, and an increase in stress. Comorbid conditions caused by obesity can also result in unscheduled call outs and extended medical leave, leading to low morale, disciplinary action, and even the loss of one’s job.
While there are limited studies that have looked closely at this issue, one group of researchers at the University of Michigan Weight Management Program tackled this issue head on with a study they recently presented at Endocrine Society's 99th annual meeting in Orlando. The study revealed compelling evidence that participation in a weight management program can reduce job absenteeism.
The weight management program in the study utilized a Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD) and followed participants through a six-month time period. The participants lost an average of 41 pounds through the program. Before the program, participants reported that they worked, on average, 5.2 fewer hours per month than what their employers expected. After six months in the program, they described working 6.4 hours more than expected.
According to Jennifer Iyengar, M.D., the study's lead author and an endocrinology fellow at the University of Michigan, the findings “suggest that, through favorable effects on work attendance, participation in a weight management program may be mutually beneficial for workers and their employers.”
While more research needs to be done on what impact medical weight management programs can have on work productivity, the hidden cost of obesity is still fairly clear, and it takes a toll. Obese workers on average are absent one more week each year than other employees. While concern for health should of course be a prime focus, concern for the livelihoods of job security of obese individuals should also be taken into consideration.
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Sources: Science Daily
Blog written by Vanessa Ramalho/Robard Corporation