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Binge-Eating Hospital Employees Cost Big Bucks

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, June 11, 2012

In other words, 94 employees in a 1,000-employee workforce that is earning the national average salary of $44,000 are each costing their employers more than $1,100 each year in lost productivity in the form of added healthcare costs, lost work days, and subpar productivity while at work; aka "presenteeism." 

Richard Bedrosian, W&P's director of Behavioral Health and Solution Development, says binge eating can afflict anyone, but is three times more common among obese employees (17.8%) than among non-obese employees (5.5%). A separate study from W&P showed that the incidence of binge eating rose in proportion to employees' BMI. "If you look at Class 3 obesity, almost 28% of those people were binge eaters, but not everyone who is obese is a binge eater. Moreover, there are people at normal weight who are binge eaters," he says.

Binge eating is a disorder that closely resembles an addiction, but Bedrosian says, it is complicated. "That is not settled, whether that is literally an addiction the way someone is addicted to a drug," he says. "But the behavior resembles what [addicted] people would do. Let's take a non-physical addiction, someone with a gambling problem. That would be similar because people use any kind of compulsive behavior to manage negative emotions."

"The biggest difference in terms of the recovery is if you have an alcohol problem the solution is you simply stop drinking," he says. "The person who is trying to recover from binge eating has to develop a better relationship with food, because obviously they cannot stop eating."

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