Obesity and injury-related absenteeism in a population-based firefighter cohort

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2011 Oct;19(10):2076-81. doi: 10.1038/oby.2011.147. Epub 2011 Jun 2.


A consistent relationship has been demonstrated between obesity and absenteeism in the workplace. However, most studies have focused on primarily sedentary occupational groups. Firefighting is a physically demanding profession that involves significant potential for exposure to dangerous situations and strenuous work. No studies to date have evaluated the impact of obesity on risk for absenteeism among firefighters. We examined the cross-sectional association between BMI and obesity and injury-related absenteeism. BMI, body fat percentage (BF%), waist circumference (WC), injury, and injury-related absenteeism were assessed in 478 career male firefighters. One hundred and fifteen firefighters reported an injury in the previous year and the number of days absent from work due to their injury. BMI was an independent predictor of absenteeism due to injury even after adjustment for confounding variables. Firefighters meeting the definition of class II and III obesity had nearly five times (odds ratio (OR) = 4.89; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 3.63-6.58) the number missed work days due to injury when compared to their normal weight counterparts and their elevated risk was greater than firefighters with class I obesity (OR = 2.71; 95% CI = 2.01-3.65) or those who were overweight (OR = 2.55; 95% CI = 1.90-3.41). The attributable per capita costs of class II and III obesity-related absenteeism over the last year were $1,682.90 per firefighter, $254.00 per firefighter for class I obesity, and $74.41 per firefighter for overweight. Our findings suggest that class II and III obesity were associated with substantial attributable costs to employers and our cost estimates probably underestimate the actual financial burden.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absenteeism*
  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Firefighters / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / economics*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Risk Factors
  • Wounds and Injuries / complications
  • Wounds and Injuries / economics*