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Originally published May 26 2013

Chronic disease costing U.S. $84 billion in lost productivity

by J. D. Heyes

(NaturalNews) American businesses are all about efficiency but the nation's rising incidence of chronic disease is costing them billions every year.

According to a recent Gallup report, $84 billion to be exact:

The annual cost to the U.S. in lost productivity due to absenteeism tied to poor health ranges from $160 million among agricultural workers to $24.2 billion among professionals. The total yearly bill across 14 job types for lost productivity due to workers being above normal weight or having a history of chronic conditions is $84 billion.

The report found that health-related absenteeism varied between professions, with missed days among professionals (a figure that did not include doctors, nurses or teachers) costing the U.S. around the most, while days missed by agricultural workers cost businesses the least.

"As employers increasingly engage in improving the health of their workers, substantial potential savings remain on the table from getting more employees to work each day as their health improves over time," the researchers wrote in their report.

'77 percent'

The chronic health conditions most linked with workplace absenteeism included in the report were high blood pressure, asthma, being overweight or obese, neck/leg/back pain, cancers, depression, heart attack and diabetes.

Results of the findings were based on 94,000 interviews conducted through 2012 among U.S. adults who work 30 hours or more per week. Interviewees were asked, among other questions, "During the past 30 days, for about how many days did poor health keep you from doing your usual activities?"

Of those surveyed, according to the report, about 77 percent had at least one chronic health condition or were overweight or obese.

Transportation workers have the worst health, the researchers found, while doctors had the best health. Jobs and professions examined in the report included teachers, doctors, nurses, business owners, service workers, executives, manufacturing workers and foresters.

"Across all workers, the estimated cost of absenteeism to their respective employers is $341 per day. This amount is adjusted in this analysis for each profession to reflect differing levels of average income, but otherwise no demographic controls were included in this analysis to preserve the unique demographic nature of any given profession," the report said.

Obesity - the nation's collectively expanding waist line - is perhaps the single largest contributing factor to health-related worker absenteeism; researchers noted in this latest report that factor is a growing concern among Americans. But the obesity rate has remained largely unchanged in recent years; good news that it is not growing, but bad news that it is not falling either.

Growing waist lines = increased costs for businesses

"For American workers in particular, the cost of above-normal weight and other chronic conditions due to absenteeism is substantial, amounting to an estimated $153 billion per year across the entire U.S. workforce," the Gallup report said. "As employers increasingly engage in improving the health of their workers, substantial potential savings remain on the table from getting more employees to work each day as their health improves over time."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last year about one-third of Americans were obese and in every state at least 20 percent of the population was obese. Heavier workers cost businesses and companies 42 percent more in medical expenditures.

This new report does at least show some improvement over a similar report that was released in 2011. Two years ago researchers found that more than 86 percent of people interviewed were either overweight or obese, or had at least one chronic condition. Also, the earlier report found that lost productivity related to health issues cost the U.S. more.

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