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The Effect of Weight Loss on Health, Productivity and Medical Expenditures among Overweight Employees
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  • Description:

    To test whether overweight or obese employees who achieve clinically significant weight loss of 5% or greater have reduced medical expenditures, absenteeism, presenteeism, and/or improved Health-Related Quality Of Life (HRQOL).


    The sample analyzed combines data from full-time overweight or obese employees who took part in one of the WAY to Health weight loss studies: one that took place in 17 community colleges (935 employees) and another in 12 universities (933), all in North Carolina. The estimations are performed using non-linear difference-in-difference models where groups are identified by whether the employee achieved a 5% or greater weight loss (treated) or not (control) and the treatment variable indicates pre- and post-weight loss intervention. The outcomes analyzed are the average quarterly (90 days) amount of medical claims paid by the health insurer, number of days missed at work during the past month, Stanford Presenteeism Scale SPS-6 and the EQ-5D-3L measure of HRQOL.


    We find statistical evidence supporting that 5% or greater weight loss prevents deterioration in EQ-5D-3L scores by 0.026 points (p-value: 0.03) and reduces both absenteeism by 0.258 days per month (p-value: 0.093) and the likelihood of showing low presenteeism (Stanford SPS-6 score between 7 and 9) by 2.9 percentage points (p-value: 0.083). No reduction in medical expenditures was observed.


    Clinically significant weight loss among overweight or obese employees prevents short term deterioration in HRQOL and there is some evidence that employee productivity is increased. We find no evidence of a quick return on investment from reduced medical expenditures, although this may occur over longer periods.

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  • Funding:
    R01 HL080656/HL/NHLBI NIH HHS/United States
    R01-5-34396/PHS HHS/United States
    R01-DP000102/DP/NCCDPHP CDC HHS/United States
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