Health care support workers had some of the highest obesity rates by occupation, while health care clinicians did not, a study found.
To explore associations between occupational factors and obesity, researchers collected data among more than 15,000 survey respondents used to represent approximately 135 million people from the 2010 National Health Interview Survey. Researchers calculated prevalence ratios (PRs) for obesity (body-mass index of 30 or more) in relation to industry and occupation of employment, as well as other work factors.
Results appeared at the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Overall, 27.7% of U.S. workers were obese. Among all workers, employment for more than 40 hours per week and exposure to a hostile work environment (being threatened, bullied, or harassed on the job) were modestly and significantly associated with an increased prevalence of obesity.
Working more than 40 hours per week was significantly associated with obesity in the unadjusted model (PR, 1.09; 95% CI, 1.01 to 1.17), and in a model adjusted for demographics and health behaviors (PR, 1.08; 95% CI, 1.01 to 1.17). Workers who reported a hostile work environment were significantly more likely to be obese, according to the unadjusted model (PR, 1.13; 95% CI, 1.02 to 1.26), and after adjustment for demographic characteristics and health behaviors (PR, 1.13; 95% CI, 1.01 to 1.26).
Employment in health care was also associated with obesity, as were careers in social assistance. PRs for both health care and social assistance remained significantly elevated after adjustment for all covariates (PR, 1.19; 95% CI, 1.08 to 1.30).
Researchers noted that the field of health care support was associated with obesity, but that of clinicians was not.
“This finding is consistent with a previous study based on NHIS data from 1986 through 2002, which reported that female health services were among the occupational categories with the highest pooled obesity rates, while both male and female workers in health-diagnosing occupations, which generally have higher incomes, exhibited some of the lowest obesity rates,” the authors wrote.