Led by John Cawley, Ph.D., of Cornell University and the National Bureau of Economic Research, Ithaca, N.Y., the researchers used nationally representative health data to analyse the rates and costs of obesity-related absenteeism. Overall, 29 percent of men and women were obese, defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. This included morbid obesity - BMI 40 or higher - in eight percent of women and six percent of men.

Obese women were 61 percent more likely to miss work time, compared to women of healthy weight. For morbidly obese women, the figure rose to 118 percent. For women, obesity was linked to missed work time across all occupational categories. For men, the relationship varied by occupation. For example, for men in professional and sales occupations, the likelihood of missed work time increased along with weight category. In other occupations - including managers, office workers, and equipment operators - the risk of missed work time was increased only for morbidly obese men.

The total costs of obesity-related absenteeism in the United States were estimated at $4.3 billion (in 2004 dollars). Female workers accounted for about three-fourths of the total: $3.2 billion. Among women, the professional occupational category made the greatest contribution to obesity-related costs: 28 percent of the total. for men, managers made the greatest contribution: 37 percent.

The new cost estimates suggest that obesity accounts for more than nine percent of the total costs of work absenteeism. "Quantifying these costs is important because such information will help employers assess the return on investment associated with interventions to reduce obesity," the authors write. "Such interventions may be particularly cost effective when targeted to those with the highest costs of obesity-related absenteeism: the morbidly obese, women more than men, and managers more than other occupations.

MEDICA.de; Source: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins