Weight Loss Medications Are Helping Combat Sick Leaves at Workplaces Across the US

Weight Loss Medications Are Helping Combat Sick Leaves at Workplaces Across the US

Many companies across the United States are paying more attention to the health and well-being of their employees. Aside from the competitive health benefits packages,wellness programs and activities are now being offered at many workplaces. These programs aim to help employees take better control of their health with the hopes of preventing diseases, boosting morale, and improving overall quality of life. There is also the hope that they will translate into better corporate health, as personal health factors heavily in work presenteeism and productivity.

Obesity in the Workforce

One such health concern affecting the workplace is obesity. Obesity is a chronic condition where people have too much excess weight or body fat that can impact their health.

A recent report showed that about 46.9 million or 30% of workers are classified as being obese. Approximately 53.8 million, or 34%, are overweight. This has been shown to have a significant economic impact on U.S. businesses. Studies have supported the link between obesity and higher rates of job absenteeism due to injury or illness and more sick leaves among obese workers compared with workers who are living healthier lives. However, it has also been found that supporting efforts to treat obesity, in turn decreasing the associated health and work burdens, can lead to substantial benefits.

A New Trend in Weight Loss

While there are now many approaches to managing obesity, a more recent development is the use of prescription weight loss medication that accompanies diet and lifestyle changes to aid in weight loss. The new medications gaining popularity are called GLP-1 agonists, which were previously used solely for diabetes but have been proven to have significant weight loss benefits. These medications can help with weight loss by reducing appetite and food intake while helping control blood glucose levels. Some medications have been approved currently for people who have both diabetes and obesity, while a few have been approved for use for obese people even without diabetes.

Weight Loss Effects on Absenteeism

The new weight loss medications have been gaining attention due to the significant and quick weight loss results, their ability to control food cravings, and blood glucose control. The benefits of weight loss can then translate to reduced need for sick leaves through the following:

Improved Overall Health

Obesity has been linked to many health problems such as diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and heart disease. Meanwhile, reducing the subject’s weight by 5-10% results in life-changing health benefits and helps towards preventing or managing these conditions, including lower cholesterol levels, glucose levels, and blood pressure.

Additionally, a study on one of the newer weight loss medications, semaglutide, has shown that patients who were overweight or obese and had a history of heart disease, had lower rates of heart events like heart attack and stroke. This medication has been recently approved by the FDA for use in overweight or obese adults with cardiovascular conditions to reduce the risk of cardiovascular complications.

Increased Energy Levels

An aspect of productivity and presenteeism that is affected by weight is energy. Low energy or fatigue can lead to more sick leaves. Excess weight, as if the person is overweight or obese, contributes to physical fatigue through many mechanisms. These include disturbed sleep due to sleep apnea, hormone imbalances, chronic low-grade inflammation, and even depression.

Losing weight can lead to increased energy levels. Weight loss leads to less energy expenditure from physical activity, resting energy, and basic body functions, so it leaves more energy for other productive things. Other studies have produced support showing how weight loss increases energy by reducing inflammation, improving sleep, and reducing pain.

Decreased Pain

Obesity has been significantly and consistently associated with more issues with bodily pain. Obesity increases the risk of sustaining acute injuries through health complications or reduced mobility, and results in acute pain. There is also chronic pain brought on by arthritis and low-level inflammation, and may be complicated by additional mental and social pain from depression, fatigue, and isolation.

Significant weight loss can decrease pain by lowering the risk of injuries, triggering a release of anti-inflammatory agents, lowering fatigue, and helping with depression. Healthy weight loss also helps decrease arthritic pain by decreasing the weight and pressure on the joints. It has been found that even a modest weight loss of 5% can help reduce pain and disability, and higher percentages of weight loss lead to even better results in disease progression.

Increased Physical Activity

While exercise is needed to achieve and maintain healthy weight loss, even with medications, it also goes without saying that weight loss can boost physical activity. With fewer health problems, less pain, increased energy levels, and better mobility, it is easier for a person to become more physically active and mobile thus reducing the need for sick leaves.

Weight loss medications can also help boost physical activity by jump-starting weight loss. Furthermore, these new medications are to be prescribed only with accompanying diet and exercise programs. Physical activity then becomes routine and healthy habits are implemented on a regular basis – it also pushes people to be able to use the existing workplace fitness solutions leading to increased productivity and job satisfaction.

Better Immunity

A person with obesity is at risk of having a weak immune system, increasing susceptibility to infections and illnesses that require sick leaves. Obesity has been shown to impair immune response by affecting immune cell counts and functions.

Another way that weight loss can boost immunity to diseases is by improving overall health, especially with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, which can increase the risk of additional infections and illnesses by causing damage to blood vessels and nerves. The use of medications can bring about significant weight loss and better health, indirectly supporting immune functions.

Improved Mental Health

Not to be ignored are the effects of mental health on presenteeism and absenteeism in the workplace. People with mental health disorders have an increased tendency to use sick leaves not only for their diagnosed disorders but also due to on-the-job stress. Obesity, on the other hand, has been linked to a higher risk of developing mental illness, including depression and anxiety disorders. The added stigma or discrimination associated with excess weight can also contribute to increased psychological stress in workers struggling with obesity.

Weight loss can boost mental health because of the improvement in physical health and increased mobility and energy. Weight loss, along with the support and effects of a better diet and physical activity, can also improve confidence and self-esteem. Finally, taking an active and proactive role in managing one’s health, like working towards a weight loss goal, can lead to better quality of life and more happiness.


Obesity affects the workplace in many ways such as absenteeism and decreased productivity. Healthy weight loss, combined with a nutritious diet and active lifestyle, can help improve physical and mental health by lowering the need for sick leaves. Improved general health can also lead to increased productivity and satisfaction at work. While relatively new, the use of the GLP-1 agonists has shown huge potential in helping to manage obesity and its associated conditions, thus can indirectly help in combating absenteeism.

It is important to note, however, that the effects and results of these medications can still vary, and should only be taken under the supervision of a medical professional.


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