Obesity Costs Society $73 Billion

The societal costs of obesity are typically thought of in terms of the health care costs associated with treating obesity related disease. But a new study has found another cost that has not often been considered: lost productivity. According to researchers from Duke University, obese workers costs society more than $73 billion a year in lost productivity.

Published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the study evaluated data from a 2006 nationwide survey on employee absenteeism as well as presenteeism, which means showing up for work sick or simply under-performing at work due to physical constraints and inability. The team found that for every categorical increase on the body mass index (BMI) scale, lost productivity at work doubled.

“As you increase in your BMI, there is just a tremendous increase in the impact of that obesity on work productivity,” explained Marco daCosta Di Bonaventura, director of health economics and outcomes research at Kantar Health, a health-care consulting company, and co-author of the study.

Women with a BMI between 30 and 34.9, which is still considered to be obese, averaged roughly 6.3 days of lost work time per year while at work. But women with a BMI over 40 averaged the equivalent of nearly 23 workdays a year while at work. And in men, the results were similar.

“Now that we’ve uncovered this sort of hidden cost, I think that it ups the ante for [employers] to think harder about what sort of interventions they want to implement,” said study author Eric Finkelstein, deputy director for health services and systems research at both Duke University and the National University of Singapore, in an interview with LifeScience.

In an earlier study covered by NaturalNews back in January, researchers found that obesity-related medical expenses cost more than $344 billion a year. When combined with current productivity loss figures, total obesity-related costs approach nearly a half trillion dollars a year.

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