Explore the connection between two of the most expensive employee healthcare costs: skin health and obesity

Ranjan Sinha

August 21, 2020

The costs associated with the treatment of obesity and obesity-related conditions run into billions of dollars worldwide. They fall into two main categories:

Direct costs: These stem from health services, including outpatient consultations, lab tests, radiological tests, inpatient treatments, surgeries, and medication.

Indirect costs: These are somewhat intangible and associated with a loss of financial resources owing to a medical condition, such as work loss or reduced productivity.

Recent findings show that the percentage of US national medical expenditures for obesity-related illnesses in adults has gone up by a whopping 29%, from 6.13% in 2001 to 7.91% in 2015.

The nature of obesity-related losses

A loss of productivity and revenue happens when employees are unable to perform at full capacity at work or miss workdays due to acute sickness or long-term disability. This is observed in the case of obese employees, who miss more days at work than non-obese employees. The losses are twofold: obese employees miss out on wages, and the employers end up paying more towards employee health insurance. It is a fact that employers pay greater amounts in life insurance premiums and workers’ compensation for obese employees.

The economic burden of skin disease and its link to obesity

Skin issues are fairly common in obese persons and often develop due to pathophysiological events and reactions to excess fatty tissue. Obesity affects multiple aspects of skin physiology, including the barrier function, working of the sebaceous and sweat glands, collagen structure and function, blood vessels and lymph channels underneath the skin.

These are some of the skin conditions associated with obesity and poor gut health:

  • Acne
  • Atopic dermatitis (AD), also commonly referred to as eczema
  • Rosacea
  • Psoriasis
  • Seborrheic dermatitis

Psoriasis is a classic example of a chronic inflammatory skin disease with complex pathogenesis and links to several comorbidities. Genetics, immune dysfunction, as well as external/environmental factors, contribute to the onset of psoriasis. It is linked to various comorbidities, including psoriatic arthritis, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and last but not least, obesity.

Obesity is a risk factor for psoriasis and worsens existing psoriasis. Losing excess weight may improve psoriasis, whereas being overweight interferes with the medical treatment used. Treatment costs are also affected by obesity, where medications need to be dispensed in weight-adjusted doses. In addition, treating overweight patients with psoriasis increases the risk of adverse events and reduces the efficacy of treatment.

All of these factors add up to significantly higher treatment costs and underlines the importance of weight control regimens to reduce the economic burden of obesity and skin conditions related to it. Employers who contribute to employee healthcare insurance must consider the importance of personalized wellness and nutrition programs as a preventative measure towards increasing employee health and productivity and decreasing healthcare-related costs over the long term.

To learn more about this topic, register for our webinar on August 25: https://bit.ly/3hU4g0g.

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