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September 12, 2005
Obese Employees Cost More, Report Says

An obese employee costs an additional $460 to $2,500 annually in medical expenditures and work absences, compared with a normal-weight worker, according to a new report.

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The report, published in the September/October issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion, says the higher expenses are absorbed by:

  • all employees, who end up paying higher health-care premiums;
  • by employers, if they must hire replacement workers or pick up a larger share of insurance costs; and
  • the obese employees themselves, if they aren't paid for their time off. An obese person is somone 30 or more pounds over a healthy weight.

According to USA Today, a company with 1,000 employees can expect pay about $285,000 a year in additional medical costs and absenteeism because of obesity. Roughly 30 percent of that cost involves increased absences.

The report was written by economists at RTI International, a nonprofit think tank, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They examined two national surveys that track absences and medical information on more than 20,000 full-time employees, ages 18 to 64. Among the other findings, adjusted for 2004 dollars:

·Normal-weight men miss an average of three work days a year, compared with five days for men who are 60 or more pounds over a healthy weight.

·Normal-weight women miss about 3.4 days a year vs. 5.2 days for women who are obese, that is 30 to 60 pounds overweight, and 8.2 days for extremely obese, 100 or more pounds over a healthy weight.

·The average medical expenditure for a normal-weight man is $1,351 a year. Men who are 30 to 60 pounds overweight cost $462 more based on added medical costs and absenteeism. Extremely obese men cost $2,027 a year more.

·Average medical expenditures for normal-weight women are $1,956. Women who are 30 to 60 pounds overweight cost $1,372 more when medical costs and missed work are included. Women who weigh 60 to 100 pounds too much cost $2,485 more.

·The most obese workers (those 100 or more pounds too heavy) make up 3% of the employed population but account for 21% of the costs of obesity.

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