How Costly is Workplace Obesity for the Employers?

Insuring all full time workers can prove to be costly for employers in the United States with widespread obesity, even in the office. According to a research study by Duke University researchers, workplace obesity cost is estimated to be 73.1 billion dollars.

The results of the study are published in the October 2010 issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. The study findings can serve as a guide to the employers before they make investments in weight management and wellness programs.

Knowledge Gained from the Research on Workplace Obesity:

  • The study is the first of its kind to understand how the productivity of work is affected by obesity related health problems.
  • It is learned that the cost bared on obesity health issues is more than the total medical expenditures of the employees.
  • The vital factors taken into account during the study were how work was less productive in the presence of obese people, effect of their absenteeism and medical expenditures per obese employer.
  • For obese women with BMI above 40, the per capita cost was $16,900 and obese men with the same BMI lead to rise in the per capita costs as high as $15,500.
  • The presence of obese women in the workplace made up to 56 percent of total cost and their male counterparts accounted for 68 percent of this cost.
  • The quality of work affected in the presence of obese people were measured based on parameters including the gap between time of arrival and starting of work at the office on days when the employers are ill, the rate at which concentration is lost, rate of doing work, weakness felt at the work place, repeating a job and doing no work at all.
  • The data was collected on these basis from overweight and obese people and compared to people with normal BMI.

Significance of the Research on Workplace Obesity:

Though obese people with BMI above 35 constituted 37 percent of total obese population, they were responsible for a significant 61 percent of the cost. What is concerning the health care professionals and the employers is the fact that recently, more and more people are increasing their BMI to these dangerous levels.

The researchers recommend that it is high time for initiating wellness programs including the CEO of the company. Employees who lose weight should be rewarded to encourage such positive developments.


The Costs of Obesity in the Workplace
Finkelstein, Eric A. PhD; DiBonaventura, Marco daCosta PhD; Burgess, Somali M. PhD; Hale, Brent C. RPh Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine:
October 2010 – Volume 52 – Issue 10 – pp 971-976
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e3181f274d2

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