The consequences of the country's obesity epidemic expand beyond just personal health.
Overweight or obese full-time workers with other chronic health conditions miss 450 million more days of work each year than would healthy workers, costing businesses $153 billion annually in lost productivity, according to a recent Gallup poll. More than 85 percent of workers are obese, overweight or have a chronic health condition the study found.
And the problem may only get worse, as the nation grapples with what has been described as a “dramatic increase” in the prevalence of obesity by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last year, about one-third of Americans were obese, the CDC found, and in every state at least 20 percent of the population was obese.
In addition to lost productivity costs, employers often pay more in medical costs for overweight or obese employees. Obese workers cost companies 42 percent more in medical expenditures, according to the Southeast Missourian. But there are ways businesses can mitigate the costs. For every $1 that companies invest in wellness programs, they earn back $3 to $6, the Southeast Missourian reports.
State and local governments around the country are increasing their focus on wellness as part of an attempt to decrease medical and productivity costs. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder held an Obesity Prevention Summit in the state’s capitol last month, according to annarbor.com. Experts estimate that that if obesity continues to rise at its current rate, it will cost Michigan $12.5 billion in medical costs in 2018.
Los Angeles County launched a campaign earlier this month called RENEW LA, which aims to reduce obesity rates by educating the public about the health consequences of sugary drinks, Walnut Patch reported. Obese and overweight workers cost the county about $6 million a year in lost productivity.
Some local programs that target obesity aren't as successful. The federal government rejected New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal in August to ban the city's food stamp users from buying soda or other sugary drinks with the food stamps, according to The New York Times.
Yet the U.S. is far from the only country struggling with the rising costs of obesity and other chronic conditions. Lost productivity from obese workers and workers with other chronic health conditions costs the United Kingdom's economy 20 billion pounds annually, according to British magazine Practice Business.