Binge eating, a disorder that affects both men and women, costs companies thousands of dollars a year in lost productivity, according to a new study by Wellness & Prevention Inc.
Among 46,818 employees, over nine percent reported binge eating at least once during the previous month, with almost five percent admitting they had done so at least four times. Binge eating was more common in women than men, although only slightly.
Binge eating involves overeating combined with a sense of loss of control. It is often underreported due to the large stigma associated with the condition. Over a lifetime, binge eating will affect three percent of U.S. adults, according to WebMD.
The current study, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, also found that binge eating was associated with obesity—occurring in 17.8 percent of obese employees, compared to 5.5 percent of non-obese workers.
Obesity in America, which affects more than one-third of adults, can increase the risk of chronic illnesses like type 2 diabetes and cancer, as well as result in more sick days taken and reduced productivity at work.
Binge eating contributes to obesity, and has a similar effect on the health and productivity of workers. Even after taking into account obesity and other health risks, though, the researchers found that binge eating would still cost a company of 1,000 people $107,965 a year.
While the percentage of employees suffering from binge eating is relatively small, the authors point out that targeting binge eating is an effective way to help employees lose weight, which is one step closer to reducing obesity in America.