Weight Loss Surgery Increases Productivity at Work

Obese people can face many difficulties in their workplace. Physical activity, mobility and travelling may just not be possible. Obesity can lead to several health problems: diabetes, high blood pressure, obstructive sleep apnea and others. Such health problems can create barriers to fully productive working. Also, obese people are at increased risk for mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety. These can create a vicious cycle with work and impair efficiency and effectiveness. Unfortunately, stigmas are often attached to obesity. For example, employers may have a mistaken perception that obese people are lazy. Obese people can be denied opportunities to work, resulting in higher unemployment than the general population.

Weight loss surgery (bariatric surgery) usually is a life-changing event for obese people in many ways. For this blog post, the relevant question is: does weight loss surgery improve prospects for employment and productivity at work?

Work productivity can be looked at in different ways. First, consider unemployment. For unemployed people, the question is whether weight loss surgery can aid them to get a job. Second, consider people who are in work: can weight loss surgery help them to do better? A worker’s productivity can be scrutinized in two ways. How often is the person off work because of ill-health? This is called ‘absenteeism’. Or, the person might continue working, despite poor health, and his work suffers. For example, he may not be able to work efficiently, although he has come to work. This is called ‘presenteeism’.

Two studies have been published recently on the subject of work and weight loss surgery.(1, 2) Both studies report reduction in absenteeism and presenteeism after weight loss surgery. In other words, people need less time off work for ill health after weight loss surgery. Also, when at work, they work better. One of the two studies shows that about one in four unemployed people return to work after weight loss surgery.

In summary, obese people can suffer many disadvantages at work. Through weight loss surgery, obese people can improve prospects for employment and increased productivity.

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  1. Sharples AJ, Cheruvu CVN. Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Occupational Outcomes after Bariatric Surgery. Obesity Surgery. 2017;27(3):774-81.
  2. Alfonso-Cristancho R, King WC, Mitchell JE, Ramanathan R, Sullivan SD, Belle SH, et al. Longitudinal Evaluation of Work Status and Productivity After Bariatric Surgery. JAMA. 2016;316(15):1595-7.