Obesity directly increases absenteeism
The impact of obesity on illness absence and productivity in an industrial population of petrochemical workers. Tsai SP, Ahmed FS, Wendt JK, Bhojani F, Donnelly RP. Ann Epidemiol. 2001. 2008; 18: 8-14.
To examine the overall and the economic impact of overweight and obesity on illness-related absence.
4,153 employees of Shell Oil Company (US) employed at any time between January 1994 and December 2003.
Data prospectively collected from an employee physical examination (the Shell Health Surveillance System used to monitor employee health) were used to categorize individuals according to body mass index (BMI), which was then compared with illness absence data.
- Overall, as BMI increased so did the frequency of absences; there were 132.8 absences per 1,000 normal-weight employees, 193.5 per 1,000 overweight employees and 239.7 per 1,000 obese employees.
- Further, the average number of lost work days lost rose with increasing BMI.
- Among employees with no additional health risk factors (e.g. smoking, high blood pressure), those who were overweight lost more than 1.5 times more days (4.2 vs 2.6 days) and those who were obese more than 2.5 times as many days (7.2 vs 2.6 days) as normal-weight co-workers. This trend continued among employees grouped by number of additional risk factors.
What does this mean?
Obesity and overweight have a considerable economic impact, with and without additional health risk factors. For this study population the direct costs of obesity-related absence were US$1.9 million. The prevalence of both conditions will continue to rise unless preventative measures are taken.