Spotlight on article published in

Population Health Management

IBI Spotlights call attention to important health and productivity findings from peer-reviewed work. The research described in this particular Spotlight is authored or co-authored by an IBI researcher. IBI members are encouraged to obtain the original articles from the copyright holder.

What is the Issue?

Employers have long recognized obesity’s threat to their workers’ health and productivity. Many have implemented workplace weight management benefits in response. While weight loss can certainly reduce the risk of serious disease such as diabetes and heart disease, it is not clear how much weight employees must lose in order to reverse productivity losses. How long it takes for a worker to realize productivity improvements as a result of weight loss is also unclear.

What are the findings/solutions?

  • Employees in the obese BMI category have significantly worse outcomes than employees in the healthy and overweight BMI categories.
  • Controlling for physical and emotional health status mediates much of the observed relationships. Improved health, stress, and psychological distress are associated with reduced illness absence and presenteeism among overweight and obese employees.
  • Obese employees who lost weight experienced reduced presenteeism.
  • The findings suggest that overweight and obese employees can realize improved productivity by managing their weight, without necessarily achieving a healthy body weight.

Journal Citation

Gifford, Brian. (2015) Unhealthy Body Weight, Illness Absence, Presenteeism, Medical Payments, and Disability Leave: A Longitudinal View. Population Health Management, 18(4), 272-282.

Objectives

To examine how much of the relationships between unhealthy body weight, and health and productivity outcomes are attributable to health status, and how much can be ameliorated by weight loss or improvements in health.

Method

Cross-sectional and first-difference regressions were conducted of employees’ body mass index (BMI) category, illness absences, presenteeism, medical spending, and disability leaves.

Results

  • Employees in the obese BMI category have significantly worse outcomes than employees in the healthy and overweight BMI categories.
  • Controlling for physical and emotional health status mediates much of the observed relationships. Improved health, stress, and psychological distress are associated with reduced illness absence and presenteeism among overweight and obese employees.
  • Obese employees who lost weight experienced reduced presenteeism.

Conclusion

The findings suggest that overweight and obese employees can realize improved productivity without weight loss.