Overweight and obese workers take more sick days, research reveals

Overweight and obese people are more likely to take time off sick.
Overweight and obese people are more likely to take time off sick.
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Overweight and obese workers pull more sickies for non-work-related illnesses than slimmer colleagues, a study has found.

And the obese are more likely to suffer an occupational injury.

Spanish researchers looked at the health and the number of days signed off sick of 174,000 employees taking part in The ICARIA Study.

This was designed to analyse cardiovascular risk factors and their impact on sickness absence in the Spanish working population.

Dr Miguel-Angel Sánchez-Chaparro of the University of Málaga said: "Overall, the working population is supposed to be young and healthy, but we have found a high prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors, like tobacco consumption, hypertension, or dyslipidaemia.

"About six per cent of Spanish workers are at high cardiovascular risk, i.e. their likelihood of suffering a fatal cardiovascular event during the next 10 years is five per cent or greater, and they take excess sick leave."

The latest study investigated the impact of obesity on sick leave and whether it varied according to being metabolically healthy or metabolically unhealthy.

Researchers classified the participants with an average age of 41, two-thirds men and half doing manual labour by their BMI and whether they were metabolically healthy or unhealthy.

The number of sick days were retrieved from medical records and divided into non-work-related diseases and accidents and work-related diseases and accidents.

The researchers found a consistent association of overweight and obesity with sickness absence due to non-work-related illnesses in both metabolically healthy and unhealthy workers.

Metabolically healthy overweight and obese people were 37 per cent more likely to take sick leave, and metabolically unhealthy overweight or obese people were 71 per cent more likely to take sick leave than people who were not overweight/obese.

Dr Miguel-Angel Sánchez-Chaparro of the University of Málaga said: "Our results show that overweight and obese workers are more likely to take sick leave for non-work-related illnesses, regardless of whether they are metabolically healthy or unhealthy.

"They highlight the need to develop effective interventions aimed at decreasing the negative impact of the obesity epidemic among the working population."