Employers looking to trim employee health costs have a growing problem on their hands — and around their waists: employee obesity. A recent Mayo Clinic study revealed obese employees cost their employer almost $600 a year more than employees with other unhealthy habits, primarily smoking.
Mayo Clinic researchers tracked health care costs of more than 30,000 Mayo Clinic employees and retirees from 2001 through 2007. Obese employees cost the health care organization $1,850 more each year than their nonobese peers, compared to the excess $1,275 spent annually on health care costs of employees who smoked. The study’s findings are reported in the March issue of the “Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.”
“The obesity epidemic in this country is more than a health crisis; it’s a financial catastrophe for employers and employees alike,” says Mayo Clinic Health System registered dietitian Diane Dressel, noting that employees who are more than 100 pounds overweight (termed “morbidly obese”) cost their employer, on average, $5,500 more than their nonobese peers.
“Employers are waking up to this reality and making real investments in workplace wellness programs, because they see how it affects their bottom line,” Dressel says.
Mayo Clinic Health System Weight Management Services staff members have presented to area businesses and their employees throughout west-central Wisconsin on weight loss strategies.
“Losing weight is hard work, but it’s not impossible,” Dressel says. “But people need to recognize obesity as the medical condition that it is and start treating it accordingly. This isn’t a bikini problem. It’s a health problem.”
To learn more about medically managed weight management programs or to attend a free orientation session, contact Weight Management Services at 715-838-6731.
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Mayo Clinic Health System consists of Mayo-owned clinics, hospitals and other health care facilities that serve the health care needs of people in 70 communities in Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The community-based providers, paired with the resources and expertise of Mayo Clinic, enable patients in the region to receive the highest-quality health care close to home.