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NEW YORK New research by Duke University found that obese workers cost U.S. employers $73.1 billion a year.
The researchers, led by Eric Finkelstein, deputy director for health services and systems research at Duke-National University of Singapore, used survey data from the 2006 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey and the 2008 U.S. National Health and Wellness Survey to determine the extent to which obesity-related health problems affected absenteeism, work productivity and medical costs. Among those with a body mass index higher than 40, or roughly 100 lbs. overweight, these costs worked out to $16,900 per capita for women and $15,500 for men.
"Much work has already shown the high costs of obesity in medical expenditures and absenteeism, but our findings are the first to measure the incremental costs of presenteeism for obese individuals separately by body mass index and gender among full-time employees," Finkelstein said.
The study was published on Oct. 8 in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.