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Appl Health Econ Health Policy. 2012 Sep 1;10(5):309-17. doi: 10.2165/11632770-000000000-00000.

Lifetime productivity losses associated with obesity status in early adulthood: a population-based study of Swedish men.

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Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.



Obesity is a well-known risk factor for sick leave, disability pension and premature death. Obesity is therefore presumably related to increased productivity losses.


The aim of this study was to estimate the lifetime productivity losses to society associated with obesity status.


This study was based on a 38-year follow-up of a nationwide cohort of 45 920 Swedish men performing mandatory military conscription tests at age 18.7 ± 0.5 years. Body mass index (BMI) based on measured height and weight at the time of military conscription tests was used to define underweight (<18.5 kg/m(2)), normal weight (18.5-24.9 kg/m(2)), overweight (25.0-29.9 kg/m(2)) and obesity (≥30.0 kg/m(2)). Data on sick leave, disability pension and premature death were retrieved from national registers. The calculations were adjusted for socioeconomic index, smoking and muscular strength.


Using the human capital approach, the lifetime productivity losses were calculated as 55.6 (95% CI 50.7, 62.0) × €1000 and 55.6 (95% CI 50.9, 61.4) × €1000 for underweight and normal weight, respectively, and 72.6 (95% CI 66.3, 80.7) × €1000 and 95.4 (95% CI 89.0, 102.9) × €1000 for overweight and obesity, respectively. If using the friction cost method instead, the estimated productivity losses were reduced by about 80%.


Obesity is associated with almost twice as high productivity losses to society as for normal weight over a lifetime. These costs are important to include in health economic analyses of obesity intervention programmes in order to ensure an effective allocation of resources from a societal perspective.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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