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Occupation-Specific Absenteeism Costs Associated With Obesity and Morbid Obesity

Cawley, John PhD; Rizzo, John A. PhD; Haas, Kara MD, MPH, FACS

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: December 2007 - Volume 49 - Issue 12 - p 1317-1324
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31815b56a0
Original Articles

Objective: To document the absenteeism costs associated with obesity and morbid obesity by occupation.

Methods: Data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey for 2000–2004 are examined. The outcomes are probability of missing any work in the previous year and number of days of work missed in the previous year. Predictors include clinical weight classification, age, education, and race. Models are estimated separately by gender and occupation category.

Results: The probability of missing work in the past year, number of days missed, and costs of absenteeism rise with clinical weight classification for both women and men, and vary across occupation. Absenteeism costs associated with obesity total $4.3 billion annually in the United States.

Conclusion: Substantial absenteeism costs are associated with obesity and morbid obesity. Employers should explore workplace interventions and health insurance expansions to reduce these costs.

From the Department of Policy Analysis and Management (Dr Cawley), Cornell University, Ithaca, NY; National Bureau of Economic Research (Dr Cawley), Cambridge, Mass; Economics Department and Department of Preventive Medicine (Dr Rizzo), Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY; and Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Inc. (Dr Haas).

CME Available for this Article at

John Cawley, PhD, John A. Rizzo, PhD, and Kara Haas, MD, MPH, FACS have no financial interest related to this research. Kara Haas is employed by Ethicon Endo-Surgery. The research reported was supported by S2 Statistical Solutions, Inc. of Cincinnati, OH with funding from Ethicon Endo-Surgery.

Address correspondence to: John Cawley, PhD, 124 MVR Hall, Department of Policy Analysis and Management, Cornell University, Ithaca NY 14853; E-mail:

©2007The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine