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Body Mass Index and Employment-Based Health Insurance



Obese workers incur greater health care costs than normal weight workers. Possibly viewed by employers as an increased financial risk, they may be at a disadvantage in procuring employment that provides health insurance. This study aims to evaluate the association between body mass index [BMI, weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters] of employees and their likelihood of holding jobs that include employment-based health insurance [EBHI].


We used the 2004 Household Components of the nationally representative Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. We utilized logistic regression models with provision of EBHI as the dependent variable in this descriptive analysis. The key independent variable was BMI, with adjustments for the domains of demographics, social-economic status, workplace/job characteristics, and health behavior/status. BMI was classified as normal weight (18.5-24.9), overweight (25.0-29.9), or obese (> or = 30.0). There were 11,833 eligible respondents in the analysis.


Among employed adults, obese workers [adjusted probability (AP) = 0.62, (0.60, 0.65)] (P = 0.005) were more likely to be employed in jobs with EBHI than their normal weight counterparts [AP = 0.57, (0.55, 0.60)]. Overweight workers were also more likely to hold jobs with EBHI than normal weight workers, but the difference did not reach statistical significance [AP = 0.61 (0.58, 0.63)] (P = 0.052). There were no interaction effects between BMI and gender or age.


In this nationally representative sample, we detected an association between workers' increasing BMI and their likelihood of being employed in positions that include EBHI. These findings suggest that obese workers are more likely to have EBHI than other workers.

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