Overweight Employees Cost More Annually, Study Finds
Obese employees each cost an additional $460 to $2,500 annually in medical expenditures and work absences compared with normal-weight workers, according to a new report published in the September/October issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion, USA Today reports. For the study, economists with RTI International, a not-for-profit think tank, and CDC examined two national surveys that track work absences and medical information on more than 20,000 full-time employees ages 18 to 64.
According to the study, obesity costs about $285,000 annually at companies with 1,000 workers and increased work absences account for 30% of that cost. The study found that normal-weight men miss an average of three work days annually, compared with five for men who are 60 or more pounds overweight, and that normal-weight women miss an average of 3.4 work days annually, compared with 5.2 days for women who are 30 to 60 pounds overweight. Women who are 100 or more pounds overweight miss an average of 8.2 work days annually, the study found.
In addition, the study found that the average annual medical expenditure for normal-weight men is $1,351, compared with $1,813 for men who are 30 to 60 pounds overweight and $3,378 for men who are more than 100 pounds overweight based on increased medical costs and work absences. The average annual medical expenditure for normal-weight women is $1,956, compared with $3,324 for women who are 30 to 60 pounds overweight and $4,437 for women who are 60 to 100 pounds overweight based on increased medical costs and work absences, the study found.
Eric Finkelstein, lead author of the study and a health economist for RTI International, said that the issue requires "a concentrated effort," adding, "Workplace wellness programs aren't going to have much effect on people who are already 100-plus pounds overweight."
Roland Sturm, senior economist with RAND, said, "This is more evidence that obesity is very costly" (Hellmich, USA Today, 9/12). An abstract of the study is available online.