A study appearing in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine suggests that, among workers with major injuries, higher BMI may be associated with higher workers’ compensation costs.

In the study, Dr Edward J. Bernacki of University of Texas at Austin and colleagues compared the workers’ compensation costs and outcomes among about 2,300 injured workers in Louisiana, regarding whether they were obese, overweight, or normal weight.

After 3 years, about 11% of claims for major injuries (for example, fractures or complete tendon tears) were still open—indicating that the worker had not yet returned to work. Obesity and overweight weren’t associated with a delayed return to work, notes a media release from Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

But for workers with major injuries, high BMI was associated with higher workers’ compensation costs. In this group, costs averaged about $470,000 for obese and $270,000 for overweight workers, compared to $180,000 for normal-weight workers.

After adjustment for other factors—including high-cost spinal surgeries or injections—obese or overweight workers with major injuries were about twice as likely to incur costs of $100,000 or higher. Body mass index had no effect on costs for closed claims or for less-severe injuries, the release explains.

Bernacki and his research team note in the release that more than three-fourths of the workers’ compensation claimants in the study were overweight or obese. They plan further studies to confirm that the increased costs related to high BMI are related to medical costs, rather than indemnity costs for lost work time.

[Source(s): Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Science Daily]