...cost their bosses more in injury claims than their lean colleagues, suggests a study (based on eight years of data from 11,728 people employed by Duke and its health system) that found the heaviest employees had twice the rate of workers' compensation claims as their fit co-workers.
Obesity experts said they hope the study will convince employers to invest in programs to help fight obesity. One employment attorney warned companies that treating fat workers differently could lead to discrimination complaints.
Duke University researchers also found that the fattest workers had 13 times more lost workdays due to work-related injuries, and their medical claims for those injuries were seven times higher than their fit co-workers.
Overweight workers were more likely to have claims involving injuries to the back, wrist, arm, neck, shoulder, hip, knee and foot than other employees. Researchers found that workers with higher body mass indexes, or BMIs, had higher rates of workers' compensation claims.
The most obese workers — those with BMIs of 40 or higher — had the highest rates of claims and lost workdays. BMI is a measure of height and weight. A 6-foot, 300-pound person, for example, has a BMI of just over 40.
Managers will pay attention to the findings because injuries mean more immediate financial losses than the future health-care costs of diabetes and heart disease. But there isn't enough good information about employer-sponsored programs that work. Employers don't know whether paying for nutrition counseling, obesity surgery or anti-obesity drugs through health insurance makes economic sense, he said.
It's now apparent that obesity is a big problem, but the research isn't there to know where to get biggest bang for the buck. BMI does not distinguish muscle from fat and can equate a buff body builder to a couch potato. Although BMI, a measure of height and weight, is used in most obesity research, research has found that blacks are particularly likely to be misclassified as obese by BMI.
Source(s): Internal Medicine, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health