Employee health and wellbeing have become a prime concern for employers and the workforce. Be it burnout, financial insecurity, stress, or health issues – they have all been a matter of concern for workers and employers as these factors have been directly associated with employee engagement, productivity, and overall workplace wellness.
Healthcare concerns have been skyrocketing over the years, and lifestyle-based health issues have been the highest contributor to healthcare disease claims. A Lancet Public Health journal reported that poor eating habits and dietary risks cost almost $143.6 billion in healthcare costs.
According to National Health Interview Survey Data, obesity generated $3508 annually per person in total healthcare costs.
How Does Obesity Impact Workplace Wellness?
Obesity is one of those silent health concerns that put individuals at risk of many other chronic health diseases, including type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, osteoarthritis, certain occupational musculoskeletal disorders, cardiovascular issues, and more.
An NCBI study reports that employed adults spend more than a quarter of their lives working, and work pressure influences their lifestyle habits and activity patterns. Workers with desk jobs are more prone to being overweight and obese due to long working hours at the desk. The report also hypothesized 3 ways how work and work-related issues could facilitate weight gain –
- Heavy workloads and long working hours cause fatigue and influence habits that lead to fat accumulation and weight gain.
- Work and workplace stress can impact lifestyle practices like sedentary behaviors and alcohol consumption, causing weight gain.
- Psychological strain causes a shift of endocrine factors associated with weight gain.
While employee health is affected, obesity and its effects can cost employers immensely in healthcare costs, higher absenteeism, and lost productivity.
The NCBI report revealed outcomes of global studies wherein high body fat is associated with a higher incidence of annual sick leaves and longer spells of absence. Obese workers were 1.7 times more likely to be absent from work compared to non-obese workers. Also, higher health care costs and short-term absences from work due to disability and illness can be caused by high BMI.
World Obesity Atlas Study Outcomes
World Obesity Atlas published reports in March 2023 about the current global situation of obesity and overweight issues, and the anticipated scenario by 2035.
Since rates are typically higher in high-income countries, obesity is frequently considered a problem in these nations. Yet, the analysis indicates that obesity levels are rising the quickest in low and lower-middle-income nations, which are less able to address obesity and its effects.
Obesity-NCD Preparedness Rankings for 183 nations are included in the report. This rating system, which was first presented in the 2022 Atlas, takes into consideration how each country’s health system is currently addressing NCDs and how committed it is to putting obesity prevention measures into action.
According to the report, all 10 of the countries that are well prepared to address these issues are in Europe, whereas, 8 out of the 10 least prepared countries were from the African region.
The report predicts that based on the current health and wellbeing trends, almost 51% of the global population will be overweight or living with obesity by 2035. Studies also show that failure to prevent and or delay in treatment could impact the economy at a total of US $4.32 trillion by 2035, viz., almost 3% of the global GDP. As a result, the economic impact of obesity and overweight is anticipated to bring down the global economy by more than US $4 trillion a year, by 2035.
In the global scenario, by 2035, obesity and overweight are estimated to have an economic impact of more than $370 billion annually, especially in countries with low and lower-middle income.
How Corporate Wellness Programs Can Help With Obesity?
Corporate wellness programs are all about cultivating healthier habits and improving overall wellbeing. So, the first obvious step is to start by taking a comprehensive health risk assessment and screening to understand the overall lifestyle behaviors of the workers, the potential risk factors, and possible health risks. Based on the risk scores and health status, the best-fitting educational resources, wellness challenges, activities, seminars, and other incentives can be offered through employee wellness programs.
Some common obesity and overweight management modules that can be offered through the employee wellness programs include –
- Group exercise sessions
- Nutrition education lessons
- Free healthy snacks and meals
- Self-help materials
- Access to a healthy recipes database
- Gym membership reimbursements
- Company-sponsored sporting events
- Company walking and sports teams
- On-site fitness equipment
Additionally, wellness challenges and daily health programs that encourage taking the stairs, completing 5k – 8k steps daily, having 5 serves of fresh fruits and vegetables daily, cutting down sugars and fats, etc., can also help in maintaining a healthier lifestyle.
Obesity can be caused due to several factors including lifestyle, environment, healthcare, food, and other support systems. Addressing these issues with the most suitable employee wellness program modules will be valuable in many ways to billions of employees and employers.