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Let me caveat the question first and say that I absolutely do not want to get into fat-shaming and also discrimination based on weight is not allowed in my organization and I would never consider doing that.

With that out of the way, I want to know if there have been any studies made of the difference in performance between different weights of people? For example, some items such as general health are definitely worse in overweight people, which might result in more time off. Others are more controversial - some studies show that being overweight affects brain function, so does that have an impact on performance at work? Others I can't find any studies on at all - for example fat people are seen in society sometimes as lazier than normal or underweight people, does that impact actual performance at all?

Lastly, to what extent are any of these answers affected by the type of work being done?

  • Just to preempt some negative comments, I frequently do blind first interviews to avoid discrimination on any basis, I'm purely interested in the facts and whether any proper studies have been done. – mjaggard Oct 19 '19 at 20:14
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    Hi @mjaggard ! I reworded your question title into words that don't imply a value scale. Previously, it was baiting for deletion as a violation to the no bigotry rule of the Code of Conduct. – Arthur Havlicek Oct 19 '19 at 20:18
  • BEFORE ANSWERING -- note that OP is asking for published studies, scientific evidence, or controlled experiments -- NOT your opinions or even your anecdotes. – A. I. Breveleri Oct 20 '19 at 1:46
  • Thank you @Arthur Havlicek that's appreciated – mjaggard Oct 20 '19 at 7:00
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    “For example, some items such as general health are definitely worse in overweight people, which might result in more time off.“ - Words like “definitely” are extremely powerful. There is nothing definite about that statement. Nothing is worse than when people group everyone into a collective description. Downvote issues for the hostile incorrect verbiage towards overweight people. – Donald Oct 21 '19 at 19:13
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For work that don't require any physical strain, my personal experience with overweight people is that their alleged poor performance at work is entirely a prejudice. One can be eager to portrait overweight people as lazy, and may have a hard time going over preconceptions to focus on the actual value of the employee.

some items such as general health are definitely worse in overweight people, which might result in more time off. Others are more controversial - some studies show that being overweight affects brain function

If these are factors, they are very, very marginal. Anyway, in many locations, medical care and medical vacation is not to the employer's charge.

to what extent are any of these answers affected by the type of work being done?

On jobs that even require physical labor, they can be just as efficient.

Some jobs specifically however, such as the military or firefighters, have strict requirements that applicants are athletic and fit, and have sports tests that overweight people would have difficulty with.

So I think for the vast majority of jobs, it makes little to no difference, justifying it should be disregarded and not considered as a factor.


Since you asked for scientifically sources though, a specific study about presenteeism in manufacturing employees concludes overweight workers "experienced a 4.2% health-related loss in productivity" specifically due to "time needed to complete tasks and ability to perform physical job demands." (As Kate points out, mind this is an average, some overweight workers could perform better than the physically fit average)

Other studies are focused on impact of overweight as a whole, and account medical costs and absenteeism as productivity loss as well.

I could not find however evidence overweight people perform any better or worse for non-physical tasks. I would imagine it being especially difficult to measure.

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In general, men are taller than women. There's no scientific controversy over this, as there may be over statements like "fat people have an addiction" or "fat people have health problems." Yet plenty of women are taller than plenty of men. If you were to say "we need tall employees so we don't hire women" you would be wrong. Not just morally wrong, but missing out on some very tall candidates who happen to be women. Therefore it's pointless for you to try to find the answer to your question, because it won't be useful.

Whatever you look for in a candidate, look for it. You may discover that very fat people rarely achieve your standards: that doesn't prove that you're bigoted or that fat people make poor employees, though it could argue for either of those.

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  • For several years, I had a project leader who was a very athletic young man. He kept straining and spraining things e.g. playing tennis, and was frequently out of the office as a result. I was overweight, and once every couple of years I would have a cold that was bad enough to make me miss a day or two of work. – Patricia Shanahan Oct 20 '19 at 1:45
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Fat people not really. But obese people often are addicted and like anyone with an addictive personality there are numerous dangers to employing them. They do not have the self control that others have.

On top of that they can have serious health issues.

Thats just general though, many people are not like that.

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    What is your addiction? – Ed Heal Oct 19 '19 at 21:12
  • @EdHeal looking after my kids, spend way too much money and it's ruined my social life... can't help myself.... whats yours? – Kilisi Oct 19 '19 at 21:24
  • @EdHeal no cruelty intended, just an observation, much the same way I pick up if someone is a smoker or probable drug addict.... there's lots of clues to people in a short time observing..... sometimes you need to make quick judgements on them, other times it's just observations. Not a personal preference or malicious dig – Kilisi Oct 19 '19 at 21:46
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    @Justin yeah, was never going to be a popular answer. Just personal observations.... we have rampant obesity and cyclones here, I've seen people take the kids food off their plates during rationing time, and others become irrational over food within a few hours.... it's as much an addiction as anything else. Not all of them, but enough to be on the alert. – Kilisi Oct 20 '19 at 21:02
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    @Kilisi I can't imagine that and I'm sorry that parts of the world still have these problems. I live in the UK, and at worst we bitch and moan because Netflix is a bit slow of an evening. Food and medicine is abundant and the worst weather is occasional floods or cold. I can see now why that informs your attitude towards the obese and lethargic, but my comment still stands; some diseases are invisible but crippling. Anything I can do to help..? I'm not Bill Gates or anything, so don't get your hopes up. – Justin Oct 20 '19 at 21:27

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