Binge Eating Lowers Work Productivity

Obesity and binge eating can affect worker productivity and impair activity levels

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) A company is only as good as its workforce. Getting the most out of workers could be optimized with binge eating interventions and obesity health initiatives.

A recent study surveyed various workers about their productivity, obesity and binge eating. The study’s findings showed diminished productivity, attendance and even outside of work activity in obese and binge eating workers.

Health initiatives that screen for binge eating could intervene and treat binge-eating workers.

"Talk to a therapist about any binge eating problems."

Ruth Striegel, PhD, from the Department of Psychology at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, was the lead author. For the study, 117,272 employees in the US were assessed by an online health risk assessment (HRA) and psychosocial functioning questionnaire.

Participants were rated on four categories: absenteeism, presenteeism (showing up to work when sick), total work productivity impairment and non-work activity impairment. Questions on the HRA included those about binge eating and overeating frequencies, work productivity, depression and health problems.

Overall, 63 percent of the group was not obese and did not binge eat. A total of 28 percent were classified as obese and 10 percent reported binge-eating episodes.

Depression was most common in the obese/binge-eating group at 44 percent compared to the lowest scores in the non-obese/no binge-eating group group at 16 percent.

Total work impairment was 5-6 percent higher for obese/binge eating workers than non-obese/non-binge eating workers.

Absenteeism was more than double for obese/binge eating workers vs. non-obese/non-binge eating workers.

Presenteeism, or working while sick, ranged from 6-9 percent for non-obese/non-binge eating workers to 11-13 percent for obese/binge-eating workers.

Non-work activity impairment ranged from 7-11 percent for non-obese/non-binge-eating workers to 15-20 percent for obese/binge-eating workers.

Authors concluded, “[F]indings suggest significant associations of binge eating and work productivity impairment and the diminished work productivity does not appear to simply be a function of depressed mood.”

Healthy living interventions in the workplace could improve quality of life and workforce productivity.

Authors recommended, “Health initiatives for obese employees should include screening and interventions for employees with binge eating.

Further studies are necessary to replicate results. This study was published in October in the International Journal of Eating Disorders. No funding information was provided. No conflicts of interest were found.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 12, 2012
Last Updated:
December 30, 2013