Scientists at RTI International Health, Social and Economics Research and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention used two data sets that encompass more than 45,000 full time workers between the ages of 18 and 64 for the new analysis. They compared figures that included body mass index (BMI), sick days and total medical expenditures. In general, a BMI greater than 25 is considered overweight. The researchers found that as BMI increased, so too did medical expenses for both men and women. The additional costs ranged from $162 for slightly obese men to an extra $1,524 for men with a BMI greater than 40. For overweight women, these costs ranged from $474 to $1,302. When the team factored in the cost of lost work days for obese employees, they calculated that the per capita cost of obesity amounts to between $460 and $2,485 annually.
Taking the frequency of obesity into account, as well as the overall gender makeup of the workforce, the authors argue that for a firm with 1,000 employees, obesity would cost about $285,000 a year. "As the prevalence and cost of obesity in the workplace continue to increase, so does the financial motivation to search for strategies to reduce these costs," remarks study co-author Eric Finkelstein of RTI. "Such strategies may include work site wellness and disease-management programs related to obesity."