Companies hungry for further evidence that corporate wellness programs are desperately needed in this country, chew on this: A new Gallup poll found that just one in seven workers in America is of normal body weight and free of chronic illness, potentially costing the U.S. economy $153 billion annually in lost productivity due to an estimated 450 combined sick days taken each year.
Conducted earlier this year, the survey of more than 100,000 working individuals indicates that two-thirds of the U.S. workforce is either overweight or obese, and nearly half of that population suffers from at least one chronic health problem. Survey participants self-reported their own height and weight, leading Gallup pollsters to conclude - given the tendency for people to overestimate their height and underestimate their weight - that the numbers could be even worse.
Even among those individuals reporting a normal weight, 60 percent are currently dealing with an ongoing health issue, including a past diagnosis of a heart attack, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer, diabetes, asthma or depression, as well as recurring physical pain in the neck, back, knee or leg during the previous 12 months.
According to Dan Witters and Sangeeta Agrawal, who presented the data on Gallup's website, "The $153 billion in lost productivity estimated in this analysis would increase if it included presenteeism, which is when employees go to work but are less productive in their jobs because of poor health or wellbeing. Including part-time employees would also add to the estimate of costs in lost productivity."