Research had shown that for obese employees, employers incur an increased cost because of medical expenditures and absenteeism associated with such employees.
The findings, which appear in the September/October issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion, show that for men employed full time in the labor market, the combined annual per capita cost of being obese, including medical expenses and absenteeism, ranges from $460 to $2,030. For women the per capita cost ranges from $1,370 to $2,485.
The larger cost for obese women is driven, in part, by their increased frequency of absenteeism. Normal weight employees miss about three days of work per year due to illness or injury, whereas grade III obese women (those roughly 100 pounds overweight) miss more than eight days per year.
To put the issue into perspective, the authors estimate that the cost of obesity at a firm with 1,000 employees is about $285,000 per year. The authors believe the high costs of obesity could be getting the attention of employers.
Previous research has demonstrated that the overall prevalence of obesity is increasing, and so is the proportion of the obese population with grades II and III obesity, those who this study shows to be most expensive. Taken together, these findings support the assertion that obesity is and will continue to be a large contributor to rising health care costs. "It is becoming increasingly difficult for employers to ignore these costs." Finkelstein said. "The results of this study, combined with information on the effectiveness of specific interventions, will allow employers to make more informed decisions about the best strategies for reducing obesity and related costs among their employees."