There are large correlations between binge eating and work productivity impairment among employees, according to a study by Wellness & Prevention Inc., which was published in the April issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
The study defines binge eating as overeating combined with a sense of loss of control and states it is a primary contributor to obesity. Researchers estimate that a company with 1,000 employees experiences an annual productivity loss of $107,965.00 because of binge eating, suggesting that efforts to cut productivity impairment should focus on binge eating as a modifiable risk behavior.
Although binge eating is considered an underreported health risk behavior, possibly because of the negative connotations associated with overeating, many studies reveal that individuals could be more likely to admit to this behavior in a computer-based health risk assessment as opposed to a face-to-face or written assessment.
The study also finds that 9.4 percent of respondents say they binge eat, and frequent binge eating is the third highest health risk related to excess productivity impairment. Depression and stress rank as the top two associated risks. Respondents who are most commonly binge eaters are obese employees at 17.8 percent while only 5.5 percent of nonobese employees report doing so.
According to Wellness & Prevention, today’s growing obese work force causes many cost implications for employers, such as the indirect costs from decreased employee work productivity and the direct costs from the greater use of health care services by employees. There are also many health implications for obese individuals, including the increased possibility for chronic illness and disability, higher health care costs, lower earning potential, shortened life expectancy and a diminished quality of life.
“These findings suggest that efforts to improve the health, productivity and performance of employee populations should include routine screenings and interventions for binge eating behavior,” says Richard Bedrosian, Ph.D., director of behavioral health and solution development at Wellness & Prevention. “The inclusion of questions about binge eating in HRAs can be a valuable tool for identifying individuals who binge eat and who may not otherwise seek help for this health risk behavior.”