Study Links Obesity to High Workers’ Compensation Costs

A study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, a publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, reported that overweight and obese workers were more likely to incur high costs related to workers’ compensation claims.  The study analyzed over 2,300 injured workers in Louisiana, and costs were compared based on the workers’ Body Mass Index (“BMI”).  Costs and longevity of claims were then analyzed based on workers’ classification of body type, i.e. normal weight, overweight, and obese.

For workers with major injuries, high BMI was associated with higher workers’ compensation costs.  Costs per workers’ compensation claim averaged about $470,000.00 for obese workers, $270,000.00 for overweight workers, and $180,000.00 for recommended-weight workers.  Obese or overweight workers were also twice as likely to incur costs of over $100,000.00 per accident than those of recommended weight.  BMI had no effect on cost for less severe injuries.

Where prior studies linked obesity to longer duration of disability, the effects on actual costs had been unclear.  This study concluded that overweight and obesity are significant risk factors for high costs for more severe workers’ compensation injuries.  Researchers plan further studies to test the hypothesis that costs are isolated to medical costs and not necessarily linked to indemnity payment costs.

Citation:  Tao X, Su P, Yuspeh L, Lavin RA, Kalia-Satwah N, Bernaki EJ.  Is obesity associated with adverse workers’ compensation claims outcomes? J Occup Environ Med. 2016;58(9):880-4.