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A recent study has found that obesity not only affects the physical health of workers, but their financial health as well, with medical and pharmacy costs rising steadily for employees with above-normal body weight.

The body mass index (BMI) of nearly 36,000 autoworkers and their spouses were calcuated to analyze the relationship between body weight and health care costs. For those who started at a BMI of 25 – the lower end of the “overweight” range – health costs rose steadily along with BMI. When adjusted for age and sex, annual medical costs increased by about $120 (4 percent) for each 1-point increase in BMI. Drug costs increased by $83 (7 percent) per 1-pound increase.

The study was led by Feifei Wang, Ph.D., of the University of Michigan, and also found that costs continued to rise for subjects within the “obese” category (BMI of 30 or higher). Researchers noted that a person with a BMI of 35, had medical costs that were nearly $600 higher and drug costs that were $413 higher than for a person with a BMI of 30.

Increased health care costs in 11 of 18 diesease categories were also linked with higher BMIs. Musculoskeletal and Circulatory diseases to the biggest hit. For each 1-point increase in BMI, costs related to diabetes increased by about $6 and costs for heart disease increased by $20. For each step up in BMI, the likelihood of diabetes medical claims increased by 12 percent and claims for heart disease increased by 5 percent.

Read more about obesity and worker health

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