EU Study Links Obesity to Increased Sick Leave

A major European study has shown that obese workers are more likely to take days off through ill health than those at a healthy weight.

63.8% of UK Adults Overweight

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The study’s concern is the economic impact. Nearly 64% of UK adults are overweight, making the workforce particularly vulnerable to sickness absence. 

The Greater the BMI, the Greater the Absence of Frequency

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The figures show that being overweight leads to an average 12% increase in time away from work. These figures climb dramatically as the person’s weight and BMI increase.

High BMI Has Huge Impact on Sickness

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The results showed people with a BMI of 30-35 were 36% more likely to miss work. Those with a BMI of 35-40 were 61% more likely to take time off. People with a BMI of 40 or above were 147% more likely.

Length of Sickness Absence Also an Issue

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The study clearly showed that the overweight and obese staff members were significantly more likely to take more than a week of sick per year than their normal-weight colleagues. 

UK Focussed Analysis Shows Frightening Figure

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Frontier Economics was commissioned to provide a comprehensive overview of the cost of adult obesity in the UK. Their analysis led to an “estimated annual cost to the UK of people living with obesity and overweight is £98 billion.”

Concerns for Future Costs if Problem Isn’t Addressed

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Worryingly, if the issue isn’t addressed, it’ll only get more expensive. The team behind the analysis said that “the cost could rise by about 10 per cent in real terms between 2021 and 2040, from £97.9 billion to £109.4 billion per annum.”

Industry Experts Share Concerns

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Kat Jenner, from the Obesity Health Alliance, said: “This research lays it bare – high rates of obesity-related disease is driving down economic productivity, with devastating economic impacts.”

Pressure on Government to Help

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She continued, “Prioritising the nation’s food-related ill-health is vital for any government serious about improving wellbeing, increasing growth and ensuring the sustainability of the NHS.”

Large Data Set Gives Study Credibility

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The findings are based on a multinational study of 122,598 people. They came from 26 European countries and were selected from 147 million people in employment.

Conclusions Clear and Prompt Action

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Siegfried Eisenberg, Dr. Thomas Czypionka, and colleagues produced the study. They concluded: “Overall, overweight and obesity have a significant impact on the working population and thus on productivity losses and increased economic burden.”

The Global Cost of Obesity Is Getting Higher

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In 2023, the World Obesity Atlas published figures saying the global costs of obesity were $1.96tn in 2020 and would rise to $4.32tn by 2035. For perspective, the third biggest economy on the planet (Germany) in 2023 was Germany, with a GDP of $4.2tn.

Government Urged to Take Action

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Richard Sloggett from Future Health consultancy said: “When setting priorities for the health mission across No 10, Treasury and the Department of Health, reducing obesity rates needs to be right at the top of the list.”

Curbing Obesity Important for Economic Growth

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Sloggett also said: “The dash for growth that the next government needs to deliver will not work unless it is underpinned by a clear and system-wide obesity strategy. Implementing obesity policies that are isolated, much delayed and watered down will not cut it.”

Obesity Strains the NHS

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The reality is that obesity is also a condition that brings about significant comorbidities. Obese people are far more likely to suffer from cancer, hypertension, heart disease and diabetes.

Healthier Nation Means Reduced Waiting Times 

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At a time when treatment waiting lists are the longest they’ve ever been, getting the nation fitter and healthier would be key to reducing the burden on the healthcare system. Reducing the number of people needing treatment would be a huge boost. 

Obesity Needs to Become a Government Priority

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Data from the House of Commons Library shows, “Since 1993 the proportion of adults in England who are overweight or obese has risen from 52.9% to 64.3%, and the proportion who are obese has risen from 14.9% to 28.0%.”

Action Now, Before It’s Too Late

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As the population age, we need it to keep working for longer. It can only do this if it’s fitter and healthier, so these long-standing health issues need to be tackled now, before it’s too late.

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