The findings show that for men employed full time in the labour market, the combined annual per capita cost of being obese, including medical expenses and absenteeism, ranges from $460 to $2,030. For women the per capita cost ranges from $1,370 to $2,485.

The larger cost for obese women is driven, in part, by their increased frequency of absenteeism. Normal weight employees miss about three days of work per year due to illness or injury, whereas grade III obese women (those roughly 100 pounds overweight) miss more than eight days per year.

To put the issue into perspective, the authors estimate that the cost of obesity at a firm with 1,000 employees is about $285,000 per year. The authors believe the high costs of obesity could be getting the attention of employers.

“As the prevalence and cost of obesity in the workplace continue to increase, so does the financial motivation to search for strategies to reduce these costs,” said Eric Finkelstein, Ph.D., the study’s principal investigator at RTI International. “Such strategies may include worksite wellness and disease-management programs related to obesity.”

The study sample was drawn from two nationally representative datasets: The National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) and the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS). The NHIS, used to estimate obesity-attributable work loss, is the principal source of information on the health of the civilian population of the United States. The MEPS, used to estimate obesity-attributable medical costs, collects data on health care expenditures and links this data with additional information collected from the respondents’ medical providers, employers and insurance providers. The sample was restricted to full-time workers between the ages of 18 and 64.

MEDICA.de; Source: RTI International