This Week's Herman Trend Alert

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  The Herman Trend Alert

September 29, 2010

The High Cost of Obesity

Though increasing obesity is a global problem, from George Washington University comes more evidence that the high level of obesity in the United States population is affecting the bottom line for employers. Its study details the high costs of added benefits and absenteeism---especially for women employees.

Researchers looked at employee sick days, lost productivity, the need for additional gasoline, and more. Their findings reflected that the annual cost of being obese is $4,879 for a woman and $2,646 for a man. "When the value of lost life is added, the results are even more dramatic: $8,365 and $6,518 for women and men respectively, they said at the release, which included a panel of esteemed obesity experts moderated by former US Surgeon General David Satcher." The costs of being overweight are far lower, estimated at $524 for women and $432 for men.

Obesity is defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of more than 30; the costs for women and men are nine and six times higher respectively than they are for an overweight person, defined as having a BMI between 25 and 29.

According to other recent studies, larger women were found to earn less than leaner women, while wages are much the same for men no matter what sizes they are.

According to a new report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), "Obesity and the Economics of Prevention: Fit not Fat", in spite of all of the media attention to the topic, obesity rates are still increasing in the US and Canada. Moreover obesity is having a significant effect on the global economy as well. Among its recommendations, the OECD suggests effective implementation of prevention programs could help employers and of course, their people.

Society is paying a very high price for obesity, and there is a lack of consciousness regarding the economic effect. In 2008, we reported "If nothing does change, healthcare costs directly related to being overweight and obese will double each decade, reaching $957 billion in 2030---accounting for one-sixth of the healthcare dollars spent in the US".

Our forecast is that employers will lead the way and government will follow in urging people to get fit and embrace healthy practices.


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