Americans bailing on work due to obesity

Americans bailing on work due to obesity

A new study conducted by researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health shows that obesity costs the U.S. $8.65 billion per year as a result of absenteeism in the workplace. Findings published online in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine discovered that 9 percent of the costs were due to nonattendance in the workplace.

The consequences of obesity among the working population go beyond health care and creates a financial challenge not only for the nation, but for individual states, study leaders said.

This is the first study of its kind to analyze the connection between obesity and absenteeism from the workplace.

Previous studies focused on health care costs resulting from treating obesity-related illnesses. However, in thinking about obesity, especially severe obesity, as a threat to a competitive, healthy workforce, the researchers wanted to learn more about the economic impact.

“Healthy community and healthy workers mean business” said Dr. Y. Claire Wang, co-director of the Obesity Prevention Initiative at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, in a statement.

According to the Journal of American Medicine, more than one-third of U.S. adults are obese – that’s 78.6 million Americans. For adults, overweight and obesity ranges are determined by using weight and height to calculate a number called the body mass index (BMI). An adult who has a BMI between 25 and 29.9 percent is considered overweight and an adult who has a BMI of 30 percent or more is considered obese.

Currently, obesity costs the state of Illinois about $3.4 billion dollars a year in direct health care costs.

The results of the study confirm what some physicians are seeing in their practices.

“Obesity is associated with many chronic conditions like arthritis, sleep apnea, diabetes and high blood pressure that lead to employees calling in sick or filing for disability,” says Dr. Jennifer DeBruler, an internal medicine physician with Advocate Medical Group. “There is definitely a connection.”

Dr. DeBruler offers these tips for keeping your weight in-check.

“One of the most important things is to stay active,” she says. “Avoid processed foods, fast foods and deserts when possible.  Log your food intake daily, many free apps like My Fitness Pal, are available to guide how many calories to eat per day.”

Check out Dr. DeBruler’s 6 tips to navigating the holiday eating frenzy.

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  1. Advocate employee November 30, 2014 at 6:12 pm · Reply

    The reason many people are overweight might also be because they cannot afford healthy food due to their stagnant wages and lack of flexible work schedules. Studies have also shown that persons will gain weight due to lack of proper rest. Lack of sleep will cause many to eat more than they would normally. Having workers begin their shift in an arbitrary time that is too early and not have flexibility for those who need to fully rest does not help them properly regulate their optimal sleep.

  2. I’m only questioning the accuracy of the report in regards to definition of obese. The statement of BMI as a percent is not correct and in the same sentence that body fat of 30% or greater is obese. You are talking about 2 different measures, BMI and Body Fat. A BMI over 30 is considered obese, but a body fat over 30% is not neccassarily obese. Please check your facts and use correct terminology.

  3. Advocate Employee #2 December 1, 2014 at 10:08 am · Reply

    With this report, as far as I’m concerned, the obese should be paying more for health insurance, just like smokers, they are both for the most part lifestyle choices and not choosing the healthy option…in my opinion.

  4. R Harms you are correct. Thank you for your comment and mentioning the error. The sentence has been changed to correctly identify the definition of BMI and obesity.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.