Binge Eating Impacts Productivity, Study Says

The study authors recommend that employers target binge eating in workplace prevention or disease-management programs.

A new study, published in the April 2012 issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, suggests a strong association between binge eating and productivity impairment in both men and women.

Researchers evaluated HealthMedia Health Risk Assessment (HRA) responses of 46,351 adult employees. Health care plans and employers deployed the HRA questionnaires to their employees as part of their population health offerings and/or health benefit structure.

The study results provide evidence on the burden of illness experienced by binge eating individuals, with binge eating being associated with depression, obesity, and work productivity impairment. It also estimates the cost of annual productivity losses due to binge eating in a company of 1,000 employees was $107,965.

“With few exceptions, previous studies have examined impairment in a much broader range of life roles such as work, family, and friendships. Many employers already offer resources to help employees change various health risk behaviors, yet binge eating has not been among the behaviors to be targeted for change,” said Ruth Striegel, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Wesleyan University. “This study illustrates that binge eating is associated with diminished work productivity and that, therefore, employees might benefit from programs that help them overcome this problem.”

The study also suggests that men are underrepresented in clinical trials designed to test the efficacy of treatments for binge eating.

According to Richard Bedrosian, Ph.D., director of Behavioral Health and Solution Development at Wellness & Prevention Inc. and a co-author of the study, these results indicate that efforts are needed to raise awareness of the clinical significance of binge eating in men so that they can receive appropriate screening and treatment services. “This demonstrates the need to target men for interventions aimed at reducing or preventing binge eating,” he said. “Since men may be reluctant to come forward, online programs, such as digital health coaching, may be more appealing to men than traditional face-to-face treatments.”

The authors recommend that employers target binge eating in workplace prevention or disease-management programs. They note that individuals who binge eat gain more weight than others.

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