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Unhealthy Employees Cost Businesses $153 Billion In Lost Productivity

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WORKPLACE HEALTH
About 6 of 7 U.S. workers is overweight and/or has a health condition. | AFP/Getty Images

A new Gallup poll estimates that unhealthy workers cost businesses $153 billion a year in lost productivity.

Nearly 110,000 full-time employees were surveyed, self-reporting their height, weight and chronic medical conditions.

According to the poll, only about one in seven employees -- 13.9 percent of the workforce -- is of normal weight with no chronic condition, logging an average of just .34 unhealthy days per month, or 4 sick days per year. Those who were overweight or obese but who had no chronic conditions reported an average .36 unhealthy days per month.

But the more than 30 percent of the population who reported being overweight or obese with one to two chronic conditions missed an average of 1.08 days per month due to poor health, adding up to over $32 billion in lost productivity. Those who said they were overweight or obese with three or more chronic conditions recorded over 3 unhealthy days per month, averaging 42 days per year and totaling $81 billion in losses.

The study took into account several chronic conditions, including whether the subject had a heart attack, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer, diabetes, asthma, depression and reoccurring physical pain in the neck, back, knee or leg for the last 12 months.

Surprisingly, the total cost of lost productivity in the U.S. -- $153 billion -- is four times greater than in the U.K., where 20 percent of the full-time workforce is healthy.

The studies' authors claim that the estimated $153 billion loss is actually much greater due to factors not included in the poll, including the health of part-time workers and the "presenteeism" issue, in which an employee goes to work but is less productive due to poor health.

Another study conducted by the Milken Institute broadens the factors by including other chronic disorders, and in turn reports that ill health actually costs employers $1.1 trillion annually, while $277 billion is spent on treatment.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, private industries with fewer than 100 employees provided workers with an average of 6 paid sick days, costing private firms 23 cents per employee for every hour worked. However, this average only accounts for recorded sick days and does not take into account the cost of employee presenteeism and limited productivity.

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