Obese Workers On Disability

This is about as strenuous as it gets for Teena Gamzon. Only 55, she can barely walk, rarely leaves her home and spends most of her time in bed.

"According to the doctors, I have so many ailments that I won't live a long age," says Gamzon.

Gamzon had loved working for an ambulance company in New York. But as CBS News Contributing Correspondent Dr. Mallika Marshall reports, she'd always struggled with her weight. By her 50th birthday Gamzon had gotten so heavy and had so many medical problems, she had to quit work and go on disability.

"I thought I'd work until 60 or 65," says Gamzon. "It was very upsetting."

Gamzon is one of nearly 60 million American adults struggling with obesity, a condition that increases the risk for diabetes, heart disease, chronic back pain and joint problems.

"We're talking about people who are unable to perform regular activities of daily life," says Dana Goldman, co-author of a new Rand Corporation study about trends in disability.

Disability is on the increase in every group but the oldest. And it's rising fastest among 30-somethings, where it's up 24 percent. Goldman links the rise in disability with rising obesity.

"The population is getting fatter, and fatter people are more likely to be disabled," says Goldman.

Employers are feeling the effect too.

"One in 50 employees are what's called severely obese," says health benefits consultant Jack Bruner.

Bruner says obesity among workers is beginning to cost big business, big money.

"Those individuals who are severely obese, it's estimated have health care costs that are between 40- to 60- percent higher than the average employee.

Last year, the U.S. spent an estimated $75 billion on treating health problems caused by obesity -- comparable to the health care costs of smoking. It's harder to put a price on the isolation felt by Gamzon.

"I miss everything, but mainly dealing with people all day," says Gamzon.

Gamzon, who can barely get by on her government disability checks, dreams about going back to work.

"I still keep thinking maybe a miracle will happen, and I'll be able to work a few more years, because it would be the first thing that I would do, definitely," she says.

She says she never thought this would happen to her, but it's the same position many Americans will find themselves in as the nation's obesity epidemic spreads.