Obesity – still an ever growing problem & cost

Dame Carol Black’s latest independent review for the Government concludes that one in three people claiming benefits because they are too sick to work have conditions which are linked to obesity.

This does not surprise me, Empactis has been advising its clients for some time now of the risks associated with the increase of obesity within the workforce. Obesity is a risk factor for many common diseases including; diabetes, high blood pressure, musculoskeletal disorders, respiratory conditions, heart conditions, and mental health disorders. Whilst being obese does not always cause the condition it may make it worse or harder to cope with (for example whilst some forms of arthritis are more likely if overweight, being overweight will certainly make it harder to move without pain).

“In England, six out of ten men and five out of ten women are overweight or obese. Today one in four men and women are obese; obesity has been increasing over the last 30 years (in 1980, around only 7 per cent of adults were obese) – and is likely to continue to do so. Treating obesity and its consequences alone cost the NHS in England £5.1 billion in 2014/15 – costs that are expected to rise substantially.” * An Independent Review into the impact on employment outcomes of drug or alcohol addiction, and obesity”

Dame Carol Black

The review is timely, following the recent Health and Work Unit White Paper which highlights the tragedy of hundreds of thousands losing employment and flowing onto benefits each year due to sickness. More than a third of the 2.3 million receiving Employment Support Allowance as an unemployment benefit are obese.

Some 11 per cent of those with a body mass index over 40 (severely obese) have taken long-term sickness and disability, along with around 6 per cent of those with a BMI over 30 (the figure is 3% for those who are not obese). A large study in London Underground showed that obese workers average an extra 3 days’ sickness a year, morbidly obese workers average twice as much, 6 additional days off each year!

This is worrying when a quarter of adults are obese and the figure is still rising and is higher in less affluent areas.

Alongside the Green Paper proposal to improve access to job coaches via Job Centres, this review calls for health coaches to provide weight management support and advice.

Employers often take a stance that health issues are personal and something that should be left to the individual employee, a very different stance to understanding the benefits of prevention associated with safety issues. The reality is that health does impact on business performance and health promotion is important, improving health awareness can enable employees to access effective support and make healthy choices.

This is good for the employee, who reduces the risk of becoming ill and losing their job and its good for the business as it reduces cost and improves productivity. Our platform is seeking to help managers support their staff better and as we develop our health manager components we are mindful of the worrying trends that this new report documents.

If you are concerned about the risks & costs attached to sickness absence and employee health and would like to understand more about the associated costs within your own business. Email our Commercial team now for a free business case consultation, as well as identifying the hidden costs & risks it will outline the savings that your business could make by simply implementing an employee health tool such as Empactis.

Read the full Independent Review into the impact on employment outcomes of drug or alcohol addiction, and obesity by Dame Carol Black.