Are Chubby Workers Eating You Out of Profits?

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OSHA recordkeeping and reporting requirements appear straightforward, but the devil is in the details. Pound for pound, obese workers cost you plenty. Here are some facts that should disturb you.

 Which employee health issue costs employers more, obesity or smoking?

If you guessed obesity, you guessed right. A study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine analyzed the additional costs of smoking and obesity among more than 30,000 Mayo Clinic employees and retirees. All had continuous health insurance coverage between 2001 and 2007.

Both obesity and smoking were associated with excess health costs. Compared to nonsmokers, average health costs were $1,275 higher for smokers. And obese people averaged an additional $1,850 more than normal-weight individuals. For those with morbid obesity, costs were up to $5,500 per year.

Clearly obesity is an issue that most employers will need to deal with in the future. Americans are becoming fatter every year, and that means increasing health problems and increasing health costs. Since many of these obese people work, employers will be impacted by increasing medical costs and lost productivity.

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Facts and Figures

Here are some other statistics that paint a worrisome picture:

•    Annual healthcare cost of obesity in the U.S. is estimated to be $147 billion per year.

•    Annual medical burden of obesity increased to 9.1 percent in 2006 compared to 6.5 percent in 1998.

•    Medical expenses for an obese employee are estimated to be 42 percent higher than for employees with a healthy weight.

•    Three major conditions related to obesity (heart disease, diabetes and arthritis) cost employers $220 billion annually in medical cost and lost productivity, according to CDC and MetLife research.

•    An American Journal of Health Behavior study showed that the annual medical cost increased from $119 for normal-weight employees to $573 for overweight employees and to $620 for obese employees.

•    A MetLife study found that the average absence for employee who filed an obesity-related short-term disability claim was 45 days.

•    A 1998 study found obesity resulted in approximately 39 million lost work days, 239 million restricted-activity days, 90 million bed days and 63 million physician visits.

•    Obese employees have double workers’ compensation claims, 7 times higher medical claims, and lost 10 times more working days from illness or injury compared to non-obese employees, according to the Duke University Medical Center.

Who’s Obese?

Obesity is defined as at least 30 to 40 pounds overweight, severely obese is at least 60 pounds overweight, and morbidly obese is at least 100 pounds overweight.

Obesity can increase the risk for many adverse health effects, including:

·    Type-2 diabetes

·    Hypertension

·    Heart failure

·    High cholesterol

·    Kidney failure

·    Degenerative joint disease and arthritis

·    Gallstones and gall bladder disease

·    Cancer

·    Lung and breathing problems (asthma)

·    Faster aging

 

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