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Obesity and Presenteeism: The Impact of Body Mass Index on Workplace Productivity

Gates, Donna M. EdD, RN, FAAN; Succop, Paul PhD; Brehm, Bonnie J. PhD, RD; Gillespie, Gordon L. MSN, APRN, BC; Sommers, Benjamin D. MD, PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: January 2008 - Volume 50 - Issue 1 - p 39-45
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31815d8db2
Original Articles

Objective: To examine whether obesity is associated with increased presenteeism (health-related limitations at work).

Methods: Randomly selected manufacturing employees (n = 341) were assessed via height and weight measures, demographic survey, wage data, and the Work Limitations Questionnaire. The Work Limitations Questionnaire measures productivity on four dimensions. Analyses of variance and analyses of covariance were computed to identify productivity differences based on body mass index (BMI).

Results: Moderately or extremely obese workers (BMI ≥35) experienced the greatest health-related work limitations, specifically regarding time needed to complete tasks and ability to perform physical job demands. These workers experienced a 4.2% health-related loss in productivity, 1.18% more than all other employees, which equates to an additional $506 annually in lost productivity per worker.

Conclusions: The relationship between BMI and presenteeism is characterized by a threshold effect, where extremely or moderately obese workers are significantly less productive than mildly obese workers.

From the College of Nursing (Drs Gates and Brehm and Mr Gillespie) and the Department of Environmental Health (Dr Succop), University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio; Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (Mr Gillespie), Cincinnati, Ohio; and the Division of General Internal Medicine (Dr Sommers), Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Boston, Mass.

CME Available for this Article at

Donna M. Gates and co authors received grant support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All authors were supported by this grant funding from the CDC. Everyone but Benjamin Sommers had a role as an Investigator (either principal or co-investigator). Dr. Sommers served as a consultant. His consulting fee was paid using grant funds from CDC.

Address correspondence to: Donna M. Gates, EdD, RN, 212 Procter Hall ML 0038, 3110 Vine Street, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH 45221-0038; E-mail:

©2008The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine