Overweight Americans Cost Billions in Productivity

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In a Gallup-Healthways study released last Monday, it was observed that full time US people in the workforce who are either suffering from chronic health troubles or overweight lose productivity to an amount costing $153 billion annually, due to abseenteism, in relation to their health status.

As compared with workers who are not overweight and who do not have any morbid conditions, 86% of US workers who have weight and health issues, or even both incur an absence of about 450 million extra working days each year. According to the study, “The high percentages of full-time U.S. workers who have less than ideal health are a significant drain on productivity for U.S. businesses.”

A total of $153 billion cost of productivity lost annually are related to unhealthy or overweight workers in the US. This amount is actually four times greater than the cost found in Britain. The difference is mainly due to the fewer number of unhealthy and non-overweight workers in Britain. In Britain, there are about 20% workers who are non-overweight and free from any chronic illnesses, as compared to 14% of full time US workers.

The research group made use of surveys conducted among 109,875 full-time US workers. These workers are those who work at least 30 hours per week, from January 2 to October 2, with a margin of error of about plus or minus 1.7%. In the said survey, Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index used the reports of the participants of their height and weight to calculate BMI or body mass index. BMI values of 30 or higher were classified as “obese,” 25 to 29.9 were “overweight,” and 18.5 to 24.9 were “normal weight”.

Apart from taking down the workers’ weight issues, chronic conditions like heart attack, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer, diabetes, asthma, or depression; and recurring physical pain in the neck or back or knee or leg in the last 12 months have been considered.

The group was able to calculate the unhealthy days of the workers by asking them the frequency of days for the past month that they have been unable to do their usual activities at work due to health problems.

During their analysis, the researchers found out that those full time workers who are neither overweight nor suffering from chronic health problems incur an average of 0.34 unhealthy days each month or about four days per year. Tiny increase of this average is also brought about by those workers who are overweight but without any chronic conditions.

On the other hand, those workers who are overweight and suffering from three or more chronic conditions have an average of about 42 unhealthy days annually. This statistics is almost equal to those workers who are suffering from chronic diseases but not overweight. According to the results of the poll, the workers lose one actual workday for every three unhealthy days they have reported.

Lost productivity also occurs not only due to absenteeism, but also with presenteeism, when workers  are less productive because of health issues despite being in the workplace.




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