Workplace Culture

Poll Says Overweight Workers Miss Millions More Days of Work

By Roberto Ceniceros

Oct. 19, 2011

Full-time U.S. workers who are overweight or obese and have other chronic health problems miss 450 million more work days annually than their normal-weight, healthy counterparts, according to a Gallup poll.

Their missed work results in about $153 billion in lost productivity annually, according to data collected this year.

Only 13.9 percent of full-time U.S. workers have normal weight and do not suffer chronic health problems, Washington-based Gallup found in its telephone survey of 109,875 workers conducted between Jan. 2 and Oct. 2.

“The high percentages of full-time U.S. workers who have less-than-ideal health are a significant drain on productivity for U.S. businesses,” Gallup said Oct. 17 in a statement.

“However, employees and employers have the opportunity to potentially increase productivity if they address the health issues that are currently plaguing the workplace.”

Workers with normal weight who do not suffer chronic health problems average about 0.34 unhealthy days per month.

However, unhealthy days per month increase to 1.08 for those who are overweight or obese and have one to two chronic health issues, Gallup said. Those with above-normal weight and three or more chronic conditions report 3.51 unhealthy days per month.

The $153 billion in lost productivity would be even greater if it included presenteeism, or reduced productivity among workers who go to work but feel poorly.

Those costs “linked to unhealthy workers in the United States (are) more than four times the cost found in the United Kingdom,” Gallup said. “The striking difference is the result of fewer unhealthy workers in the U.K. About 14 percent of full-time U.S. workers are of a normal weight and have no chronic illness, compared with 20 percent in the U.K.”

Roberto Ceniceros writes for Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, email

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Roberto Ceniceros writes for Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management.

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