ORLANDO, Fla. — Adults with obesity employed full time experienced weight loss and less job absenteeism after participating in an intensive, behavioral weight management program through their workplace, according to findings presented here.
Iyengar, MD, an endocrinology fellow at the University of Michigan, said employees who participated in the program for at least 6 months significantly decreased their work absenteeism.
Jennifer J. Iyengar
“In cross-sectional studies, we know that people who are obese have higher medical costs, miss more time from work and are more likely to need short-term or long-term disability,” Iyengar said during a press conference discussing the study results. “These findings are likely due to an increase in medical problems in workers with obesity. A lot of employers are getting savvy to this, and many are offering health promotion programs to their employees. But, often, these programs are not geared toward the specific needs of people with obesity.”
Iyengar and colleagues analyzed data from 92 adults with BMI at least 32 kg/m² employed full time and participating in a University of Michigan weight management program for 2 years (68% women; 86% white; mean age at enrollment, 48 years; 41% with graduate degrees). Within the cohort, 47.8% had high cholesterol, 42.4% had high blood pressure, 37% reported depression and 18.5% had diabetes. All participants completed the validated WHO Health and Work Performance Questionnaire assessing work performance, absenteeism and presenteeism at baseline and every 3 months. The weight management program included 11 physician visits and 26 dietitian visits; participants were provided with liquid meal replacements (shakes or soups) for the first 12 weeks of the program, for an 800 kcal per day diet, followed by a low-calorie diet of regular foods and the assistance of a dietitian. Participants were also encouraged to perform 40 minutes of physical activity every day. Primary outcome was change in absenteeism and presenteeism scores from baseline to 6 months.
During 6 months, mean BMI for the cohort fell from a mean 40 kg/m² to a mean 33.5 kg/m². Participants lost an average of 18.5 kg during the first 6 months of the program (P < .01); about half the participants met a goal of losing 15% body weight, Iyengar said.
Work absenteeism rates also improved during the program, from a mean 5.2 hours lost per month at baseline to a gain of 6.4 hours per month at 6 months (P < .01). Improvement in absenteeism did not correlate with weight loss (P = .56), Iyengar said.
At 6 months, participants reported improvements in health-related quality of life, including chronic pain, depression, self-esteem and physical function, Iyengar said; participants did not report a change in their self-reported work performance (presenteeism); mean scores at baseline and 6 months were 7.83 and 7.93, respectively.
Iyengar called the findings a “win-win” for participants and their employers.
“What we’re hoping is that our results encourage employers to be supportive of their employees in their weight-loss efforts,” she said. – by Regina Schaffer
Iyengar J, et al. OR28-4. Presented at: The Endocrine Society Annual Meeting; April 1-4, 2017; Orlando, Fla.
: Iyengar reports no relevant financial disclosures.