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Economic Costs of Obesity to Self-Insured Employers

Durden, Emily D. PhD; Huse, Dan MA; Ben-Joseph, Rami PhD; Chu, Bong-Chul PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: September 2008 - Volume 50 - Issue 9 - p 991-997
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e318182f730
Original Articles

Objective: To quantify the direct and indirect costs of obesity within a cohort of commercially insured employees in the United States.

Method: Health plan claims, self-reported health risk assessment, and productivity data (Thomson MarketScan) from 2003 to 2005 were used to identify employees. Two-part regression models were used to compare body mass index (BMI) groups to estimate the incremental direct and indirect costs, conditional on expenditure, associated with elevated BMI.

Results: Regression-adjusted incremental direct medical costs associated with being overweight, obese, and severely obese were estimated to be $147.11, $712.34, and $1977.43, respectively. Adjusted incremental indirect costs due to paid absence associated with being overweight, obese, and severely obese were estimated at $1403.81, $1511.24, and $1414.09, respectively.

Conclusions: Overall adjusted direct and indirect costs were higher for workers with elevated BMI relative to those of normal weight.

From Thomson Reuters (Dr Durden, Mr Huse, Dr Chu), Cambridge, MA; and Sanofi-aventis (Dr Ben-Joseph), Bridgewater, NJ.

CME Available for this Article at

Address correspondence to: Emily Durden, PhD, Thomson Reuters, 1310 Pasadena Drive, Austin, TX 78757; E-mail:

©2008The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine