• health surveys;
  • workforce participation;
  • employment;
  • absenteeism;
  • cost of illness


Objective: To describe the relationship between obesity class and workforce participation and the influence of demographic, socioeconomic, and comorbid disease states on this relationship using population-based Canadian data.

Research Methods and Procedures: Responses from 73, 531 adults surveyed in the Canadian Community Health Survey 2000 to 2001 who provided complete information regarding variables of interest were analyzed. Workforce participation was defined as individuals reporting that they held and were present at a job or business in the week before survey administration. The association between obesity and workforce participation was explored using logistic regression after adjusting for demographic, socioeconomic, and obesity-related comorbidities.

Results: In univariate analysis, obese individuals had lower odds of participating in the workforce. In the fully adjusted model, increasing obesity was associated with decreasing odds of workforce participation, with Class I, II, and III obesity having odds ratios (95% confidence interval) of 0.94 (0.89 to 0.99), 0.85 (0.77 to 0.94), and 0.66 (0.57 to 0.78), respectively. Obese individuals were also less likely to be employed and more likely to be absent from work.

Discussion: Obesity is associated with lower workforce participation. This association appears to be independent of associated comorbidity and sociodemographic factors. These results indicate that the economic impact of obesity alone on workforce productivity is larger than previous reports suggest.