Purpose: To estimate the employer costs associated with employee obesity.
Design: The study used cross-sectional analysis of employee health-risk assessment, disability, workers' compensation, and medical claims data from 2006 to 2008.
Setting: The study took place in the United States from 2006 to 2008.
Subjects: A panel database with 29,699 employees drawn from a panel of employers and observed for 3 years each (N = 89,097) was used.
Measures: Workdays lost owing to illness and disability; the cost of medical, short-term disability, and workers' compensation claims; and employees' adjusted body mass indices (BMI) were measured.
Analysis: We model the number and probability of workdays lost from illness, short-term disability, and workers' compensation events; short-term disability and workers' compensation payments; and health care spending as a function of BMI. We estimate spline regression models and fit results using a third-degree fractional polynomial.
Results: Probability of disability, workers' compensation claims, and number of days missed owing to any cause increase with BMI above 25, as do total employer costs. The probability of a short-term disability claim increases faster for employees with hypertension, hyperlipidemia, or diabetes. Normal weight employees cost on average $3830 per year in covered medical, sick day, short-term disability, and workers' compensation claims combined; morbidly obese employees cost more than twice that amount, or $8067, in 2011 dollars.
Conclusion: Obesity is associated with large employer costs from direct health care and insurance claims and indirect costs from lost productivity owing to workdays lost because of illness and disability.