Original Research

Obesity and sickness absenteeism among health workers in a private hospital in South Africa

Therese de Wet, Willem H. Kruger, Gina Joubert
South African Family Practice | Vol 64, No 1 : Part 1| a5418 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/safp.v64i1.5418 | © 2022 Therese de Wet, Willem H Kruger, Gina Joubert | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 October 2021 | Published: 03 February 2022

About the author(s)

Therese de Wet, Department of Community Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa; and, Kimberley Gariep Mediclinic Hospital, Kimberley, South Africa
Willem H. Kruger, Department of Community Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Gina Joubert, Department of Biostatistics, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa

Abstract

Background: There is a worldwide trend among the general population including health workers to become more overweight and obese. Such obesity can reduce work ability as manifested through sickness absenteeism. The aim of this study was to describe the obesity among health workers in a private hospital in central South Africa, as measured by the body mass index (BMI) as well as the association of obesity and sickness absenteeism.

Methods: A cohort analytical study was conducted to describe changes in the BMI of employed health workers as well as the association of obesity and absenteeism in a private hospital in South Africa. The BMI measurement on employment, a repeat BMI at the time of the study as well as the sick leave days taken since employment of all health workers who had been employed for more than one year were analysed.

Results: Full time employees (n = 344) participated in the study of whom 33.7% were obese; 26.2% were overweight; 36.3% had normal weight and 3.7% were underweight at employment. On repeat BMI done in February 2016, 43.0% were obese; 27.6% were overweight; 28.2% had normal weight and 1.2% were underweight. There was no difference in the amount of sick leaves taken between the normal weight, overweight and obese groups.

Conclusion: A trend among health workers to change to a higher BMI category during employment is concerning, but there was no statistically significant association between the different weight groups and sickness absenteeism. The negative impact of obesity on the productivity of workers cannot be ignored.

 


Keywords

obesity; overweight; BMI; sickness absenteeism; health workers

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