Obesity and presenteeism: the impact of body mass index on workplace productivity

J Occup Environ Med. 2008 Jan;50(1):39-45. doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31815d8db2.


Objective: To examine whether obesity is associated with increased presenteeism (health-related limitations at work).

Methods: Randomly selected manufacturing employees (n = 341) were assessed via height and weight measures, demographic survey, wage data, and the Work Limitations Questionnaire. The Work Limitations Questionnaire measures productivity on four dimensions. Analyses of variance and analyses of covariance were computed to identify productivity differences based on body mass index (BMI).

Results: Moderately or extremely obese workers (BMI > or =35) experienced the greatest health-related work limitations, specifically regarding time needed to complete tasks and ability to perform physical job demands. These workers experienced a 4.2% health-related loss in productivity, 1.18% more than all other employees, which equates to an additional $506 annually in lost productivity per worker.

Conclusions: The relationship between BMI and presenteeism is characterized by a threshold effect, where extremely or moderately obese workers are significantly less productive than mildly obese workers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Absenteeism*
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Cost of Illness
  • Efficiency*
  • Employer Health Costs*
  • Employment*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Industry
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / economics*
  • Overweight / economics
  • Surveys and Questionnaires