obesity workplace wellness

Study Reviews Negative Effects from Obesity, Weight-Related Concerns

Helping individuals manage (or even prevent) obesity is among the important results a well-run workplace wellness program can accomplish.

We previously noted the Gallup report that states: “Obese adults between the ages of 25 and 64 are at least four times more likely to have been diagnosed with diabetes than those who are normal weight… By their mid-to-late 30s, 9.3% of adults who are obese have been diagnosed with diabetes, compared with 1.8% among those who are normal weight.”

We also noted a study published in the International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health takes an additional view: The role of obesity on the work itself — which brings focus the the business case that supports a well-run workplace wellness program.

The report is titled “Overweight and obesity are progressively associated with lower work ability in the general working population: cross-sectional study among 10,000 adults.” It’s purpose: “Obesity is associated with many diseases and functional limitations. Workplaces are not always designed to accommodate this challenge. This study investigated the association between body mass index (BMI) and work ability in the general working population.”

A recent New England Journal of Medicine study looks at “Health Effects of Overweight and Obesity in 195 Countries over 25 Years.” The report notes: “The prevalence of overweight and obesity is increasing worldwide. Epidemiologic studies have identified high body-mass index (BMI, the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters) as a risk factor for an expanding set of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, chronic kidney disease, many cancers, and an array of musculoskeletal disorders. As the global health community works to develop treatments and prevention policies to address obesity, timely information about levels of high BMI and health effects at the population level is needed.”

Indeed, these health effects are frequently areas that bring higher costs to businesses and lower quality of life (and worse) to individuals. They are also areas that well-run workplace wellness programs can often address.

Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government summarizes the study’s key findings:

  • In 2015, an estimated 603.7 million adults and 107.7 million children worldwide were obese. That represents about 12 percent of all adults and 5 percent of all children.
  • The prevalence of obesity doubled in 73 countries between 1980 and 2015 and continuously increased in most of the other countries.
  • Excess body weight accounted for about 4 million deaths — or 7.1 percent of all deaths — in 2015.
  • Almost 70 percent of deaths related to a high BMI were due to cardiovascular disease.
  • The study finds evidence that having a high BMI causes leukemia and several types of cancer, including cancers of the esophagus, liver, breast, uterus, ovary, kidney and thyroid.
  • In rich and poor countries, obesity rates increased, indicating “the problem is not simply a function of income or wealth. Changes in the food environment and food systems are probably major drivers. Increased availability, accessibility, and affordability of energy-dense foods, along with intense marketing of such foods, could explain excess energy intake and weight gain among different populations. The reduced opportunities for physical activity that have followed urbanization and other changes in the built environment have also been considered as potential drivers; however, these changes generally preceded the global increase in obesity and are less likely to be major contributors.”

The study authors conclude: “Our results show that both the prevalence and disease burden of high BMI are increasing globally. These findings highlight the need for implementation of multicomponent interventions to reduce the prevalence and disease burden of high BMI.”