How Much Is Diabetes Costing Employers?

With an estimated 9.4% of the US population having diabetes, and figures continuing to rise, what impact is it having on US employers? Diabetes makes a direct difference to health care costs, which then affects companies’ spending.  It’s thought that the illness is costing employers over $20 billion each year, which is a huge concern for both businesses and workers.

According to research, the prevalence of diabetes in full time workers is estimated to be 6.3%, and an estimated 9.1% in part time workers.  The disease is costing companies money as its causing employees to miss extra days of work each year.  The average full time worker with diabetes is missing an extra 5.5 days each year.

The rise of obesity

The rise in obesity is the primary cause of diabetes, and with more than one in three adults and one in six children (ages 2-19) now being considered obese in the US, the health and financial risks continue to grow.  Research director for Gallup-Sharecare, Dan Witters, adds that among the working age adults, those “who are obese are about four time more likely to have diabetes than those who are not.”

People diagnosed with diabetes are also more likely to suffer from other obesity related conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease. According to Sheila Holcomb, Vice President of Sharecare “While most clinicians agree that managing diabetes improves health and reduces medical costs, the benefit to employers also extends to a more productive workforce,”

It’s not just employers who are feeling the cost of the obesity crisis. It’s estimated that obesity costs the US over $150 billion each year in healthcare costs, and even more in the loss of productivity in the workplace. Investing in obesity is considered to be a good investment for taxpayers in the long term, and could save billions. It’s in the interests of employers to operate businesses with healthier employees, as it means having a workforce that is more productive and has lower healthcare costs.

How are employers tackling the problem?

Employers are looking into new ways to help combat the disease, not just for financial reasons, but in the interest of the health of their workers. Some initiatives that can be put in place by employers to encourage healthier lifestyles include improving workplace nutrition, physical activity programs, providing exercise facilities and installing self-testing health stations.

“These include financially rewarding employees who maintain a normal BMI by depositing free money into employees’ medical spending accounts, or by partially reimbursing employees for fitness center use or for riding bikes to work rather than driving. Many businesses are also now moving to much healthier food options in their cafeterias and posting nutritional information,” Witters says.

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