Obesity and morbid obesity are associated with increased rates of work absenteeism, with estimated costs of $4.3 billion per year in the United States, reports a study in the December Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Led by John Cawley, PhD, the researchers used nationally representative health data to analyze the rates and costs of obesity-related absenteeism. Obese women were 61% more likely to miss work time, compared to women of healthy weight. For morbidly obese women, the figure rose to 118% . 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% of the total. for men, managers made the greatest contribution: 37%.The new study confirms the strong association between obesity — especially morbid obesity — and job absenteeism. The results also show some important differences by sex and occupational group.
JOEM – December 2007 www.joem.org

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