High Job Demands Associated With Weight Increase in Women

Samantha DiGrande

A recent study sought to determine the relationship between occupational stress and obesity. The study authors investigated if baseline and prolonged exposure to high job demands were associated with major weight gain.  

Researchers in Sweden enrolled 3872 men and women in the study. Anthropometry was measured and participants completed questionnaires on job strain, diet, and other lifestyle factors. The survey included questions such as their pace of work, psychological pressures, how often they learned something new, and whether there was enough time to complete job responsibilities. Enrollees were studied on 3 occasions over a 20-year period with respect to body weight and demands and control at work.

“We were able to see that high job demands played a part in women’s weight gain, while for men there was no association between high demands and weight gain,” said lead author Sofia Klingberg, a postdoctoral research fellow at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, in a statement.

Researchers found that the respondents with a low degree of control in their work, as reported by the survey, frequently gained considerable weight, defined as a weight gain of ≥10% at baseline, over the course of the study. This finding applied to men and women alike.

However, the long-term exposure to high job demands was significant only for women. In just over half of women who experienced high job demands, a significant weight increase took place over 20 years. Compared with women who experienced low job demands, the weight gain was approximately 20% higher in women with high job demands.

“When it came to the level of demands at work, only the women were affected. We haven’t investigated the underlying causes, but it may conceivably be about a combination of job demands and the greater responsibility for the home that women often assume. This may make it difficult to find time to exercise and live a healthy life,” said Klingberg.

Based on the findings of the study, researchers concluded that identification of potential groups more susceptible to stress could benefit from efforts to reduce work-related stress. The reduction in stress could potentially decrease weight, as well as other comorbidities often found in people with obesity, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Klingberg S, Mehlig K, Johansson I, Lindahl B, Winkvist A, Lissner L. Occupational stress is associated with major long-term weight gain in a Swedish population-based cohort [published online December 6, 2018]. Int J Occup Environ Health.
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