A longitudinal study on the relationship between weight loss, medical expenditures, and absenteeism among overweight employees in the WAY to Health study

J Occup Environ Med. 2009 Dec;51(12):1367-73. doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e3181c2bb56.


Objective: To quantify the extent to which successful weight loss among overweight/obese employees translates into subsequent savings in medical expenditures and absenteeism.

Methods: This analysis relied on medical claims and absenteeism data collected from overweight/obese employees at 17 community colleges in North Carolina.

Results: We find no evidence that participants achieving at least a 5% weight loss experienced reduced medical expenditures or lower absenteeism during the 12-month weight loss intervention or in the subsequent 2 years.

Conclusions: These results suggest that a quick return on investment from weight loss programs, even effective ones, is unlikely. Nevertheless, as with other employee benefit decisions, the decision about whether to offer weight loss programs should take into account many factors, such as employee health, in addition to the potential for a quick return on investment.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Absenteeism*
  • Adult
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Female
  • Health Benefit Plans, Employee
  • Health Care Costs*
  • Health Promotion / economics
  • Health Promotion / methods
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • North Carolina
  • Occupational Health Services
  • Overweight / economics*
  • Overweight / prevention & control
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Regression Analysis
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Universities
  • Weight Loss*
  • Workplace*