Obesity: The numbers (and costs) are staggering

Dave SinclairEmployee Benefits, Health Insurance, Risk Management, Workers Compensation

I’ll start with a piece of good news: the smoking rate among United States adults declined from 20.9% in 2005 to 17.8% in 2013. There’s still a ways to go, but at least the numbers are moving in the right direction.

Now, the (very) bad news: Americans are snuffing out the cigarettes but apparently picking up the cheesecake, because more than a third — 35%(!) — are obese. The percentage is rising and expected to hit 50%(!) by 2030.

The negative effects of obesity on one’s health are profound. According to the Centers for Disease Control, obesity significantly raises the risk for developing a whole host of health issues, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

Obese employees can make a business unhealthy as well. Absenteeism, frequent worker’s compensation claims, increased use of health care services, and having key employees with institutional knowledge and unique skillsets out of commission for extended periods of time can wreak havoc on a bottom line.

Several studies show that obese workers experience more on (and off) the job injuries and more expensive claims than their thinner colleagues.

As smoking gradually became less tolerated culturally, business owners began to feel more emboldened to “intrude” on the “personal” choices of employees, restricting smoking areas and making it more difficult for the pack-a-day-puffer to harm himself and his colleagues.

But the carrot is always better than the stick, particularly when it comes to complex issues like diet, exercise, and motivation.

The obesity statistics are depressing, but employee wellness programs can help. They can be resource intensive and require significant buy-in, but successfully implemented, they will bring down the rate of obesity and smoking among employees.

You don’t need an army of Schwarzeneggers and Serenas in your cubicles. But increasing exercise levels and healthy eating habits helps promote an overall sense of wellbeing in the workplace.

Not only is this good for your employees, it’s good for your bottom line. Wellness programs that produce healthier employees can also dramatically lower worker’s compensation claims and reduce health care premiums.

Sinclair Risk has significant in-house expertise on wellness programs and other ways to help reduce your staff’s waist lines while boosting your bottom line. Starting is always the most difficult step, but we can help motivate you.

Dave Sinclair,

CEO Sinclair Risk & Financial Management