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