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Unhealthy U.S. Workers' Absenteeism due to Obesity Costs $153 Billion

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overweightAbout 86% of full-time workers are above normal weight or have at least one chronic condition

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Full-time workers in the U.S. who are overweight or obese and have other chronic health conditions miss an estimated 450 million additional days of work each year compared with healthy workers -- resulting in an estimated cost of more than $153 billion in lost productivity annually.

 

U.S. workers unhealthy days per month, by health group

These findings are based on Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index data collected between Jan. 2 and Oct. 2, 2011. Gallup surveyed 109,875 full-time employees -- those who work at least 30 hours per week -- during this time period.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index uses respondents' self-reports of their height and weight to calculate body mass index (BMI) scores. BMI values of 30 or higher are classified as "obese," 25.0 to 29.9 are "overweight," and 18.5 to 24.9 are "normal weight."

Chronic health conditions in this analysis include being overweight or obese; having ever been diagnosed with a heart attack, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer, diabetes, asthma, or depression; and recurring physical pain in the neck or back or knee or leg in the last 12 months. Gallup calculated unhealthy days using respondents' answers to the question, "During the past 30 days, for about how many days did poor health keep you from doing your usual activities?"

Full-time workers who are of normal weight and do not suffer from chronic health conditions make up 13.9% of the U.S. workforce and average .34 unhealthy days each month -- or about 4 days per year. The average number of unhealthy days per month is slightly higher at .36 among those who are overweight or obese and do not have additional chronic health conditions.

Unhealthy days per month increase further to 1.08 for workers who are overweight or obese and have one to two additional chronic health conditions. Workers who are of an above-normal weight and have three or more chronic health conditions report a significantly higher average of 3.51 unhealthy days per month -- that is about 42 days per year.

To estimate how unhealthy days per month translate into missed work days, Gallup asked workers this question: "Earlier, you indicated that you had xx days in the last month where poor health prevented you from doing your usual activities. How many actual work days in the last month did you not work due to poor health?" The results indicated that one unhealthy day per month for full-time workers is equivalent to about 0.31 actual missed days of work.

See page 2 for a full description for estimating the economic cost of unhealthy days.

Read more at Gallup -

http://www.gallup.com/poll/150026/Unhealthy-Workers-Absenteeism-Costs-153-Billion.aspx

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Growth in women's share of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) occupations declined to 27% in 2011from a high of 34% in 1990. While women make up nearly half of the workforce, they were 26% of the STEM workforce in 2011.

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