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The Impact of Obesity on Work Limitations and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in the U.S. Workforce

Hertz, Robin P. PhD; Unger, Alan N. PhD; McDonald, Margaret PhD; Lustik, Michael B. MS; Biddulph-Krentar, Jan BS

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: December 2004 - Volume 46 - Issue 12 - p 1196-1203
doi: 10.1097/01.jom.0000147222.53729.1e
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Objective: We document the association among obesity, cardiovascular risk factors, and work limitations in the U.S. workforce.

Methods: Using clinical measurements from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III and 1999–2000, we analyzed obesity rates and cardiovascular risk factor prevalence. We examined work limitations using the National Health Interview Survey 2002.

Results: Obesity increased 43.8% from 1988–1994 to 1999–2000 and now affects 29.4% of workers. Obese workers have the highest prevalence of work limitations (6.9% vs. 3.0% among normal-weight workers), hypertension (35.3% vs. 8.8%), dyslipidemia (36.4% vs. 22.1%), type 2 diabetes (11.9% vs. 3.2%), and the metabolic syndrome (53.6% vs. 5.7%). We also found increased prevalence rates among those classified as overweight.

Conclusions: Our study documents the association between excess body weight and health outcomes. Workplace weight and disease management programs could reduce morbidity and increase productivity.

From U.S. Outcomes Research–Population Studies, Pfizer Global Pharmaceuticals, New York, NY (Drs. Hertz and McDonald); and Science Applications International Corporation, Reston, Virginia (Dr. Unger, Mr. Lustik, Ms. Biddulph-Krentar).

Robin P. Hertz is employed by Pfizer Inc.

Address correspondence to: Robin P. Hertz, PhD, Senior Director, U.S. Outcomes Research –Population Studies, Pfizer Global Pharmaceuticals, 235 E. 42nd Street, New York, NY 10017; E-mail: robin.hertz@pfizer.com.

©2004The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine