Obesity Increases the Risk of Disabling Workplace Injuries

Recent research confirms anecdotal data that work-related injuries are far more costly if an injured worker is obese. In fact, a claim with an obese diagnosis can be 30 times to 60 times more expensive than a comparable claim incurred by a non-obese person, the National Council on Compensation Insurance Inc. reported.

For its report, NCCI sampled more than 7,000 claims with “obesity” as a secondary diagnosis and another 20,000 claims with virtually identical characteristics — primary diagnosis, gender, industry group, year of injury, state, and approximate age — but no obesity diagnosis. The group found that:

The dramatically higher medical costs suggest that the types and nature of injuries sustained by obese workers, especially the “morbidly obese,” are more likely to result in permanent disabilities, NCCI said. Furthermore, there is greater risk that injuries will create permanent disabilities if the injured worker is obese.

For the case studies examined, treatment categories that tended to be the primary cost drivers included physical therapy, complex surgery, and drugs and supplies, NCCI said.

With the incidence of obesity growing globally, and the United States reporting the highest incidence of all reporting countries, “the implications on workers’ compensation are disturbing, NCCI said.

The report, “How Obesity Increases the Risk of Disabling Workplace Injuries,” is available for download at https://www.ncci.com/documents/obesity_research_brief.pdf.