Individuals living with overweight or obesity are more likely to take sick days from work compared to those at a healthy weight, latest research has indicated.

A new European study has found that adults living with overweight are 12% more likely to call in sick than those with a lower weight.

Results from the study have shown that individuals with a BMI of 30 to 35 were nearly 40% more likely to be off compared to those with a lower BMI.

Meanwhile, those who are extremely obese were 147% more likely to take sick leave compared to people who are not living with obesity.

Data in the UK has revealed that more than 60% of adult Brits are living with overweight or obesity.

According to Frontier Economics, overweight individuals cost the UK economy £98 billion per year through healthcare costs and lost productivity.

The Director of the Obesity Health Alliance, Kat Jenner, said: “This research lays it bare – high rates of obesity-related disease are driving down economic productivity, with devastating economic impacts.

“Prioritising the nation’s food-related ill-health is vital for any government serious about improving wellbeing, increasing growth and ensuring the sustainability of the NHS.”

A total of 122,598 adults from 26 European countries were assessed during the study.

On average, people with overweight and obesity take seven sick days per year, the study has revealed.

The report states: “People with overweight and obesity have higher probability of being absent from work due to health issues and it is more likely that the number of days absent is higher compared to people reporting [a] BMI of 18.5 to 25 across all European countries.

“Overall, overweight and obesity have a significant impact in the working population and thus on productivity losses and increased economic burden.”

Richard Sloggett, Programme Director at the Future Health consultancy, and a former special adviser at the Department of Health and Social Care, said: “The dash for growth that the next government needs to deliver will not work unless it is underpinned by a clear and system-wide obesity strategy.

“Implementing obesity policies that are isolated, much delayed and watered down will not cut it.”

He added: “When setting priorities for the health mission across No 10, Treasury and the Department of Health, reducing obesity rates needs to be right at the top of the list.”

In the UK, more than 1.5 million women are not working due to illness. Between 2018 and the end of 2023, the number of women not in work because of problems with their arms, hands, legs, feet, back or neck rose by 126,000.

“Our £2.5 billion back to work plan will help over a million people, including women with long-term health conditions break down barriers to work,” said a government spokesperson.

They added: “We are also reforming the benefits system so that it’s fairer on the taxpayer and makes sure those who can work, do work.

“This includes enhancing support for people with health conditions and disabilities through programmes like WorkWell and reforming the fit note process so people can return to and stay in employment.”

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