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Nearly 30 Percent of U.S. Workers Are Obese

Study says extra pounds diminish health and productivity

FRIDAY, Dec. 17, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Nearly 30 percent of American workers are obese, which can reduce their productivity and greatly increase their cardiovascular disease risk factors.

That's the conclusion of a study in the December issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Researchers analyzed data on about 2,400 workers collected in a 1999-2000 nationwide health survey. The data revealed that 29 percent of the workers were obese (a body mass index of 30 or higher), compared to a worker obesity rate of 20 percent in a 1988-1994 survey.

The study found that 7 percent of the obese employees said they had some form of work limitation due to health or other issues, compared with 3 percent of normal-weight workers.

High blood pressure was found in 35 percent of obese workers, compared with 9 percent of normal-weight workers. The study also found that 36 percent of obese workers had high cholesterol levels and 12 percent had diabetes, compared with 22 percent and 3 percent, respectively, among normal-weight workers.

The impact of obesity on worker health and productivity was equivalent to adding 20 years of age, the study found. For example, obese workers in their mid 20s and 30s had work limitations and cardiovascular risk factors similar to those of normal-weight workers in their 40s and 50s.

The work and health status of middle-aged workers who were obese were similar to those of normal-weight workers who were 60 or older.

More information

The U.S. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion has more about obesity and overweight.

SOURCE: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, news release, Dec. 10, 2004
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