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Overweight and Obesity as Predictors of Absenteeism in the Working Population of the Netherlands

Jans, Marielle P. PhD; van den Heuvel, Swenne G. PhD; Hildebrandt, Vincent H. PhD, MD; Bongers, Paulien M. PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: September 2007 - Volume 49 - Issue 9 - p 975-980
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31814b2eb7
Original Articles

Objective: To determine the relation between body mass index (BMI) and absenteeism.

Methods: Data were collected in a prospective cohort study (n = 1284). Multilevel analyses (linear mixed model with random intercept) with two levels (employee and company) were used to test whether BMI was related to duration and frequency of absenteeism and whether this relation was influenced by sports participation.

Results: Obese employees were absent 14 days a year more than normal-weight employees. Also the frequency of absenteeism of more than 7 days was significantly higher. The differences in absenteeism between obese and normal-weight employees were larger for employees who did not practice sport regularly.

Conclusions: Obese employees are more often absent and are absent longer, especially when they do not practice sport regularly. An active company policy to prevent obesity is needed, both from a health and a business efficiency perspective.

From the TNO Quality of Life (Drs Jans, van den Heuvel, Hildebrandt, and Bongers), Leiden, The Netherlands; and Body@Work Research Centre Physical Activity, Work and Health (Drs Hildebrandt and Bongers), TNO-VUmc, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Address correspondence to: Marielle P. Jans, PhD, TNO Quality of Life, PO Box 2215, 2301 CE Leiden, The Netherlands; E-mail:

©2007The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine