New Study Links Obesity to Higher Workers’ Compensation Rates

Oct 07, 16 New Study Links Obesity to Higher Workers’ Compensation Rates

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2010 National Compensation Survey, workers’ compensation costs represented approximately 1.6% of total employer spending for that year. Now, however, a new study has found a link between obesity and higher workers’ compensation costs.

A study in the September Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine has found that workers who are overweight or obese are more likely to be the cause of high costs related to workers’ compensation claims for serious injuries.

Dr. Edward J. Bernacki and a team of researchers at the University of Texas at Austin analyzed data from approximately 2,300 Louisiana workers who had recently been injured.

During their research, Bernacki and his team compared the workers’ compensation costs and outcomes between people who were defined as obese, overweight, and of normal weight, according to respective BMI.

They found that while being overweight or obese didn’t have a direct effect on time spent away from work, it did affect the nature of the injuries and how much the compensation claims cost employers.

However, workers’ compensation isn’t the only area being affected by obesity.

Surprisingly, major league baseball players have become increasingly overweight and obese within the last 25 years.

David E. Conroy, Penn State professor of kinesiology, and a group of his colleagues studied 145 years-worth of MLB data regarding players’ body mass.

The team found that players’ body mass and weight remained largely the same for approximately 100 years, but around 1991, the BMI among players began to rise.

The numbers continued to grow. Over the last 25 years, nearly 80% of players have fallen into the overweight or obese category with BMIs of 25 or more.

“The data are observational, and raise more questions than they answer,” said Conroy. “BMI can be misleading, because it doesn’t take body composition into account. What kind of pounds are the players adding? Are they mostly muscle or fat?”

The rise in BMI also coincides with the steroid era in sports, which may point to another reason why players have seen such a dramatic change over the last quarter century.

Regaardless of the reason, researchers have reported that these findings warrant more research.

Likewise, those studying workers’ compensation rates in Texas have suggested that more research is needed.

The researchers have planned further studies that seek to confirm that the increased costs related to high BMI are related to medical costs, rather than costs for lost work time.

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