Washington: Obese employees take more leaves from work for illness than their slimmer counterparts, a new UK study has revealed.
This has become another incentive for employers to combat expanding waistlines in the workplace.
The results of the study found that obese workers took four more sick days per year on average than those of a healthy weight.
Since obesity is known to increase the risk of many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, it is perhaps not surprising that obese individuals would require more sick leave, especially in the form of long-term absences.
However, the study also found obesity increased the risk for short-term absences, the time someone might take off if he or she had the flu.
The researchers have hoped that the findings may inspire employers to take action to encourage their employees to lose weight.
“Employers are in quite a unique position to contribute to the public health message and interventions around obesity and trying to reduce levels of obesity,” study researcher Samuel Harvey, a psychiatrist at King’s College London, said.
“Our hope is that by demonstrating the economic cost to them of obesity amongst their workforce that that will help motivate employers to get involved in thinking about this problem,” he added.
Harvey and his colleagues analyzed data from 625 workers for the London Underground, a public transportation system in the city. The workers either drove or controlled trains, and were required to undergo regular health checkups.
Obese workers took an average of nine days off work per year while healthy weight individuals took off an average of five.
It might be that obese people are more susceptible to infections and take longer to recover from them, Harvey told.
”Obese individuals might cope with symptoms of ill health in different ways to those of healthy weight, causing them to have a lower threshold for taking time off,” a news magazine quoted Harvey as saying. For now, the question remains unanswered, he said.
The study was published in the August issue of the journal Occupational Medicine.