Less than 14% of American workers are healthy, according to new polls from Gallup. The other 86% of workers, more than 6/7, are either dangerously overweight or have some other combination of chronic health issues. The research was done over the course of several months and relied on BMI calculations from height and weight data provided by survey participants.
Though there are some problems with the statistical methodology, this number is probably close to correct. On the one hand, people tend to have a rosy view of their height and weight, meaning that the BMI numbers probably understate the number of overweight workers. At the same time, though, BMI does not take into account muscle weight, which causes some people who are very fit to look, from a BMI standpoint, overweight or obese. These two biases cancel each other out to a certain extent, meaning that, yes, only 1/7 of American workers are healthy.
There’s a huge economic cost to the lack of health in the American workforce. Because sicker workers have to take more sick days and are less productive while at work, the economy loses out on $153 billion dollars annually. This translates into almost half a billion extra sick days because of chronic illness and being overweight, and is just one in many other ways in which poor health and bad personal decisions lead to major economic problems.
Clearly, the lack of health in the American workforce is turning into a drag on the economy. Some policymakers are trying to fix this, though, so that workers can remain healthy while they grow the economy. The Affordable Care Act, for example, extends health insurance coverage to anyone who was previously uninsured, expanding coverage and in most cases lowering rates. Another possibility being floated to trim waistbands across the country is to establish a “fat tax” like in Denmark, where fatty foods are taxed. Regardless of the exact policy combination, though, the current regimes of high health care costs and subsidized fast food are finally taking their toll on the economy – and need to be reformed before it’s too late.
Photo credit: Leonid Mamchenkov's Flickr stream.
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may
not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.