How Obese Employees Will Hurt Bottom Line

Sept. 19, 2012
The loss in economic productivity could rise to between $390 billion and $580 billion annually by 2030. 

Although we have heard about the rising increase of obesity, a report released yesterday was quite a shock.

The number of obese adults is on course to increase dramatically in every state in the country over the next 20 years, according to F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2012, a report released by Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  

And the costs associated with this health epidemic are massive.

By 2030, medical costs associated with treating preventable obesity-related diseases are estimated to increase by $48 billion to $66 billion per year in the United States.

Although the medical cost of adult obesity in the United States is difficult to calculate according to the report, current estimates range from $147 billion to nearly $210 billion per year. 

The loss in economic productivity could be between $390 billion and $580 billion annually by 2030. 

Over the next 20 years, nine states also could see their obesity-related health care costs climb by more than 20%, with New Jersey on course to see the biggest increase at 34.5%. Sixteen states and Washington, D.C., could see increases between 15% and 20%.

If states’ obesity rates continue on their current trajectories, the number of new cases of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke, hypertension and arthritis could increase 10 times between 2010 and 2020—and double again by 2030.  

Obesity could contribute to more than 6 million cases of type 2 diabetes, 5 million cases of coronary heart disease and stroke, and more than 400,000 cases of cancer in the next two decades. 

Currently, more than 25 million Americans have type 2 diabetes, 27 million have chronic heart disease, 68 million have hypertension and 50 million have arthritis.  In addition, 795,000 Americans suffer a stroke each year, and approximately one in three deaths from cancer per year (approximately 190,650) are related to obesity, poor nutrition or physical inactivity. 

What to do?

If the average body mass index  is reduced by just 5% by 2030, obesity-related diseases can be prevented and dramatically reduce health care costs.  

 “This study shows us two futures for America’s health,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, CEO,  Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  “At every level of government, we must pursue policies that preserve health, prevent disease and reduce health care costs. Nothing less is acceptable.”

About the Author

Adrienne Selko | Senior Editor

Focus: Workforce, Talent 

Follow Me on Twitter: @ASelkoIW

Bio: Adrienne Selko has written about many topics over the 17 years she has been with the publication and currently focuses on workforce development strategies. Previously Adrienne was in corporate communications at a medical manufacturing company as well as a large regional bank. She is the author of Do I Have to Wear Garlic Around My Neck? which made the Cleveland Plain Dealer's best sellers list. She is also a senior editor at Material Handling & Logistics and EHS Today

Editorial mission statement: Manufacturing is the enviable position of creating products, processes and policies that solve the world’s problems. When the industry stepped up to manufacture what was necessary to combat the pandemic, it revealed its true nature. My goal is to showcase the sector’s ability to address a broad range of workforce issues including technology, training, diversity & inclusion, with a goal of enticing future generations to join this amazing sector.

Why I find manufacturing interesting: On my first day working for a company that made medical equipment such as MRIs, I toured the plant floor. On every wall was a photo of a person, mostly children. I asked my supervisor why this was the case and he said that the work we do at this company has saved these people’s lives. “We never forget how important our work is and everyone’s contribution to that.” From that moment on I was hooked on manufacturing.

I have talked with many people in this field who have transformed their own career development to assist others. For example, companies are hiring those with disabilities, those previously incarcerated and other talent pools that have been underutilized. I have talked with leaders who have brought out the best in their workforce, as well as employees doing their best work while doing good for the world. 

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