Smoking and obesity reduce work productivity

If your boss starts suggesting you quit smoking, lose weight and eat better, she might be concerned about more than just your health. A study in the current issue of the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that obesity and smoking were associated with productivity loss and increased use of sick leave.

A Dutch study that recruited 10,624 workers at 49 companies in the Netherlands from 2005 through 2009 sought to identify lifestyle factors that led to productivity loss and increased use of sick leave.

The researchers analyzed productivity on a 10-point scale, rating how much work was actually performed on the previous day, while sick leave was determined by the number of days off taken during the previous year due to health reasons.

Overall, obesity increased the risk of a worker taking sick leave by 25 percent and the likelihood of a prolonged absence by 55 percent, the researchers found. Lack of physical activity and smoking increased the risk a worker would take sick leave by 12 percent and 17 percent, respectively. Moreover, smoking and obesity were associated with the degree of productivity loss as was insufficient fruit and vegetable consumption, the researchers found.

“Lifestyle-related factors, especially smoking and obesity, were associated with the presence and duration of sick leave and degree of productivity loss at work,” the researchers concluded. “More than 10 percent of sick leave and the higher levels of productivity loss at work may be attributed to lifestyle behaviors.”

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