An Overwieght US Workforce Costs Employers

A recent Thomson Reuters press release identified an overweight and obese workforce as having the largest impact on employer health care spending. The Thomson Reuters Workforce Wellness Index takes into account each year how body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose, tobacco use and alcohol use influence employer healthcare spending.  Unhealthy behaviors among the US workforce cost employers a total of $623 each year, costs linked to obesity account for nearly 70% of that expenditure. Medical costs associated with obesity were reported as costing employers $425 per employee annually in 2010.

But despite the ever present goal to reduce health care costs for employers and employees alike, statistical data from over the years indicates that pant sizes won’t be the only thing going up if we continue on our current trajectory. A graph included in the CDC obesity trend report shows a steady increase in the obesity population since the late 1980’s. In 2007, the CDC reported that 34% of the American population over the age of 20 suffered from obesity. Respectively, Mississippi, South Carolina, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Michigan top the list of the most obese states in 2010, all weighing in with over 30% of the total state population suffering from some form of obesity. Raymond Fabius, chief medical officer of Thomson Reuters, is quoted in the press release, “Obesity continues to be a prevailing problem, one that will continue to plague employers and insurers alike until we find a way to stem this epidemic.”

In a feeble attempt to stop the progress of what is widely considered an obesity epidemic, the government has set a national goal to lower the percentage of obese individuals in each state to under 15%.  As of 2010, even the state with the lowest obesity percentage, Colorado, missed the mark by 6%.

It appears that cutting health care costs may be as simple as shedding a few pounds…



  • Anonymous

    Most employers don”t provide any viable weigh control programs to their employees, which doesn”t help.  And most health insurance does not cover any access to a nutritionist even if there is a demonstrated need.  

    Employers also do things to make the problem worse.  In many firms employees don”t have the time to eat a decent lunch.  Company cafeterias often offer highly fattening food,  When they do offer healthy, it tends to be very expensive.

    • Jfbogdan

      I agree that MANY employers do not facilitate healthy habits with their practices, but some do.

      Here at Thomson Reuters our vending machines have been stripped of all soda that is not diet and all snacks that are high in fat and calories. Weight Watcher”s meetings are held during work hours in the offices at a discounted rates and different exercise courses are offered throughout the year free of charge, during work hours, on work premises as well. I currently take a yoga class here at TR during my lunch hour on Tuesdays!

      I understand that we maybe the exception, but we are at least proof that some employers understand the importance of healthy workers and the determent that an unhealthy staff can have on a business.

      • pbug56

        Those are good things.  I”d like to see employers in general go farther.  And it is to their benefit; healthy employees work better.