Which workers are most likely to gain weight on the job?

Health care workers among the most obese

A new study finds that employees who work more than 40-hour work weeks or are exposed to a "hostile work environment" are significantly more likely to be obese, Olga Khazan writes in The Atlantic.

In one state, the obesity rate has hit 35%. Gallup's latest obesity ranking

For the study, published recently in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health analyzed data from the 2010 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) and self-reported U.S. Census data on employees' height, weight, industry, and work environment.

Researchers found that the prevalence of obesity was highest among employees who worked in:

  • Public administration (36%);
  • Utilities (34%);
  • Information (33%);
  • Transportation and warehousing (33%); and
  • Health care and social assistance (32%).

Once researchers accounted for factors like race, gender, and health behaviors like smoking, they found that only health care and social assistance workers had higher-than-average obesity rates. "Health care and social assistance" employees were considered anyone working in a health care setting.

The study also compared obesity rates to job descriptions and found that obesity was most prevalent among "protective service" workers, which include police, security guards, and jailers.

In addition, researchers found that the obesity rate was 13% higher among employees who answered "yes" to if they had been "threatened, bullied, or harassed" while on the job than among those who answered "no."

Khazan calls the findings fairly intuitive, adding that "long hours at the office can make it hard to squeeze in exercise, and dealing with, shall we say, 'a strong personality' all day can make it tempting to indulge in an extra helping of curly fries" (Khazan, The Atlantic, 3/31). 

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