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Employees with obesity may have lower work productivity due to increased risk of illness

People with obesity may have lower work productivity due to increased risk of illness, contributing to increased costs for employers, according to industry-supported research presented at ENDO 2023, the Endocrine Society's annual meeting, in Chicago, Ill.

"Employees with overweight and obesity may have higher loss of work productivity as measured by absenteeism, short and long-term disability, and worker's compensation compared to employees with normal weight," said Dr Clare J Lee, of Eli Lilly & Company in Indianapolis, IN.


Obesity is a significant public health issue affecting approximately 42% of people in the United States. Employees with overweight or obesity are more likely to develop weight-related comorbidities such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnoea, cardiovascular disease and cancer, which all contribute to lower work productivity.

The researchers evaluated 719,482 employees with and without obesity in the MarketScan databases. They determined the percentage of employees with work loss, number of hours/days lost from work, and costs associated with productivity loss were higher among people with overweight or obesity. The loss of work productivity was greater with each higher Body Mass Index (BMI) category.


The researchers found costs associated with absenteeism, short and long-term disability, and worker's compensation were US$891, US$623, US$41 and US$112 higher per year (respectively) for people with obesity compared to those with normal weight.


"Given the substantial burden of overweight and obesity on employee health and function that was demonstrated by this study, employers should focus on building tailored interventions that could be beneficial in improving the health of these individuals,” added the study’s co-author, Dr Shraddha Shinde also of Eli Lilly & Company.

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