INTRODUCTION: Aside from an impact on health, obesity is also associated with higher social and economic costs such as impaired productivity, increased work absenteeism, and higher rates of unemployment. The aim of this study was to assess the effect of bariatric surgery on employment status in a large nationwide database, using data from all patients that underwent bariatric surgery in Belgium.
METHODS: This is a retrospective analysis of all Belgian patients that underwent bariatric surgery between 2014 and 2015. The work status of these patients was examined yearly: 4 years before and 3 years after surgery. Increased employment after surgery was defined (1) as a reduction in days of unemployment and incapacity and (2) as the resumption of work among the unemployed.
RESULTS: In total, 16,276 patients were included. The number of working people rose from 49.7% before to 61.2% 3 years after bariatric surgery, i.e., an increase of 11.5% between pre- and post-surgery. The largest improvement in reduction in unemployment was found in individuals who were absent from work for more than 9 months, namely, a reduction from 13.4 to 7.2%. In the population of unemployed patients, 20.9% became employed after bariatric surgery.
CONCLUSION: We found an increase in employment rate and a decrease in work incapacity and unemployment after bariatric surgery. Higher rates of employment after bariatric surgery may also contribute to an increased cost-effectiveness of bariatric surgery. It would be interesting to research possible targeting strategies to increase the employment rate even more after bariatric surgery.