Social Workers, Truck Drivers Have Least Heart-Healthy Jobs, CDC Finds

The authors note that employers dictate what Americans do for a large portion of the waking hours, and public health strategies to improve cardiovascular health could be targeted to certain job groups.

Is your job bad for your heart? With cardiovascular disease (CVD) still the nation’s number 1 killer, researchers at CDC thought it was fair to look at the relationship between occupations and the health of the people who perform them.

It turns out that job clusters that include social workers and truck drivers are among the least likely to meet at least 2 of the 7 American Heart Association standards for good CV health, which are: not smoking, having normal blood pressure, having normal blood glucose, being a normal weight, having normal cholesterol levels, being physically active, and eating a healthy diet.

Next on the unhealthy list came architects and engineers. On the opposite end of the spectrum, farmers and forestry workers are faring better. However, fewer than 2% of Americans meet all 7 metrics.

The CDC study uses data from the 2013 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. That year 21 states included questions about occupation and industry. Researchers used data from respondents who had been employed at least a year. Among the different job clusters, 14.6% of those in “community and social services” and 14.3% of those in “transportation and material moving met 2 or fewer of the metrics. “Architecture and engineering” came rated third at 11.6%.

The transportation group, which includes truck drivers, also had the highest prevalence of “not ideal” scores for 3 of the metrics: physical activity, blood pressure, and weight. In this group, 75.5% were not within normal ranges for body mass index. While the authors did not attempt to explain results for most groups, they did cite other research which has found CVD risks for long-haul truck drivers, who sit for extended periods and may not eat healthy. By contrast, only 5% of farmers and forestry workers met 2 or fewer metrics.

Besides the job group disparities, researchers found that the likelihood of meeting 2 or fewer metrics was greatest among those 65 or older (18.6%) among men (11.1%) and among African Americans (12.2%). Among those with less than a high school education, 17.7% met 2 or fewer metrics.

The authors cautioned that because the results were from 21 states, they may not be applicable in all communities. However, they wrote that state public health officials should use the results to work with employers, who dictate the schedules of 130 million working Americans, or about 55% of all adults.

Results, they wrote, “can be used by state organizations and private companies to target cardiovascular disease prevention programs and improve workplace health promotion.”

Reference

Shocky TM, Sussell AL, Odom FC. Cardiovascular health status by occupational group—21 states, 2013. MMWR; 2016; 65:793-798. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6531a1