Had A Gutful?

Not only are overweight and obese employees at greater risk of ailments, but they are also more prone to injuries. Professor Garry Egger shares some startling findings

The nation’s bellies have reached alarming proportions, with more than 60% of working men now classified as overweight or obese. While this has been a source of mirth in the past, new research from several different fields shows that this needs to be taken more seriously – especially before it affects the nation’s bottom line in increased costs of absenteeism (1), lost productivity (2), accidents and injury (3) and stress anxiety and depression (4).

The costs of obesity in the workplace have been difficult to gauge until now but recent data suggest that there are alarming increases in health problems related to obesity. An increase in absenteeism of between eight to ten percent, an up to 10-fold increased risk for traumatic workplace injury, greater risks for stress and associated metabolic diseases, and the dangers and costs of depression related to excessive body fat – these are just some of the many problems associated with being overweight or obesity. It all points toward a high but avoidable workplace expense which could make a fat worker ten percent more costly than a lean one.

Absenteeism and loss of productivity, particularly because of daytime sleepiness caused by sleep apnea at night, has also been responsible for big workplace health costs. In some countries (i.e. Canada) this has even led to heavy-duty equipment operators being refused licences because of increased accident risk. More recently, a 14 years study with workers in the UK showed that stressed workers have higher rates of a combination of disorders known as the metabolic syndrome (high blood fats, sugars and blood pressure) – and overweight and obese workers suffer from even higher rates.

Researchers at the University of Columbia also found that obesity and depression are also related and that this increases the risk of heart disease and heart attack on the job.

By Professor Garry Egger MPh Phd MAPS. Courtesy of ‘Professor Trim’s Waistline’. Visit www.professortrim.com for more information.


1. Finklestein E, Fiebelkorm C, Wang G. The costs of obesity among full-time employees. Am J Health Promot 2005; 20(1):45-51.

2. Ricci JA, Chee E. Lost productive time associated with excess weight in the U.S. workforce. J Occup Environ Med 2005;47(12):1227-34.

3. Craig BN et al. Personal and non-occupational risk factors and occupational illness/injury. Am J Industr Med 2006; 49: 249-260.

4. Pollack KM et al. Association between body mass index and acute traumatic workplace injury in hourly manufacturing employees. Am J Epidemiol May 2007 (on line).

5. Simon GE et al. Depression and work productivity: the comparative costs of treatment versus nontreatment. J Occup Environ Med 2001;43(1):2-9.