Chronic illness eats into profits as the world’s workers get fat

Chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes are becoming a growing threat to companies and their workers, global research has found.

As work becomes more sedentary, the global workforce is becoming fatter, sicker and less productive due to chronic conditions, with little attention or money being directed towards preventing such diseases.

The study by the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Health Research Institute, in conjunction with the World Economic Forum, found just 3% of spending on health in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries went towards prevention.

The report called on chief executives worldwide to make ‘wellness’ central to their corporate business strategy, suggesting that multinational employers were best placed to prevent chronic disease.

Simon Leary, partner at PwC and Health Research Institute leader for Europe, said: “Traditionally, it has been governments, not employers, that have been responsible for managing the major global health risks. But the prevention of chronic diseases has been chronically under-funded.

“As the global workforce becomes fatter and less active, the weight of the world is falling on the bottom lines of the world’s largest companies in the form of reduced productivity, increased tax burdens and declining competitiveness.”

The report, first presented at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland last month, examined the challenges facing businesses as a consequence of chronic diseases.

It said about 2% of capital spent on the workforce was lost to disability, absenteeism and ill employees who turned up but worked below par.

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