Obesity Raises Healthcare Expenses

September 15, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - According to a report in the American Journal of Health Promotion, an obese employee costs an additional $460 to $2,500 annually in medical expenditures and work absences, compared with a non-obese employee.

The report claims that all employees pay higher health-care premiums because of obese workers, and employers pay if they have to hire replacement workers or pick up a bigger share of insurance costs, according to BLR.com.

RTI International and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention examined two national surveys that tracked absences and medical information on more than 20,000 full-time employees, ages 18 to 64. Key findings of the surveys, according to BLR.com, included:

  • Normal weight men miss an average of three work days a year compared to five days for men who are 60 or more pounds overweight.
  • Among women, normal weight women miss an average of 3.4 days per year, obese women (those 30 to 60 pounds overweight) miss 5.2 days per year, and extremely obese women (those 100 pounds or more overweight) miss 8.2 days.
  • 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.