You are what you eat. And where you work. And what you do. And maybe how much you're paid.
A study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine starts with the obvious. "The CDC recognizes obesity as a national epidemic." Not so obvious: Your job could be part of the problem. Researchers looked at data from over 15,000 employees in a couple dozen fields and found that more than one in four were obese. Not just overweight, but obese, defined as having a body mass index measurement of 30 or over. The slimmest Americans are those ages 18-29 (duh, metabolism!), college graduates, and Asian Americans. Former smokers have higher obesity rates than current smokers (uh, duh, again...why do you think they used to smoke?).
But here's what's interesting. Sometimes the extra pounds can be blamed on the work environment. "Among all workers, employment for more than 40 hours per week and exposure to a hostile work environment were significantly associated with an increased prevalence of obesity, although the differences were modest," researchers concluded. Working long hours leaves less time for exercise.
As for what constitutes a hostile work environment, people were asked if they'd been threatened, bullied or harassed at work during the last 12 months. Those who answered "yes" we're more likely to be obese, though researchers weren't clear about cause and effect. They speculated that rather than harassment leading to overeating, it might be the other way around, and, "workers who are already obese may be more likely to experience harassment or bullying on the job."
But which occupations are most likely to tip the scales the wrong way, even after non-work-related factors such as gender, race, exercise habits and diet are taken into consideration? Here are the jobs most likely to force you into jeans with elastic waistbands:
Healthcare and social assistance
People in the healthcare industry are unhealthy? Well, knock me over with a thermometer. Researchers found an overall obesity rate of 32.2 perent in this sector, but it wasn't across the board. Those battling obesity tended to be lower-paid healthcare workers, rather than doctors. The less you make, the more you weigh.
Architects and engineers
Researchers were surprised to find that this group showed an obesity rate of greater than 34 percent. Researchers said a previous study had shown low obesity rates among female architects and surveyors. Well, somebody is apparently now more interested in building up cholesterol levels than building skyscrapers.
Working for the government can be a grind. Dealing with the public, ditto. Workers in this industry had an obesity rate of 36.3 percent.
Community and service workers
Kinda like public administration...lots of sitting and yapping on the phone in a cubicle or facing unhappy "clients." This group had an obesity rate of 35.6 percent.
PUT DOWN THE DONUT AND STEP AWAY FROM THE VEHICLE! No one needs to get hurt here...healthwise. Police and security guards showed the highest rate of obesity in the study, at nearly 41 percent. Researchers blamed a lot of it on the stressful nature of the job.
To see which job categories have the lowest obesity rates, watch the video.
The truth is, we're probably even in worse shape than the study claims. Researchers admit they depended on people volunteering their weight and height, and we often lie about stuff like that.
So what are we supposed to do with this information? Well, besides taking the stairs instead of the elevator and skipping that morning muffin, researchers suggest employers "consider workplace interventions" that focus on diet and exercise and "prevention of workplace hostility."
Reducing "workplace hostility" may be difficult when your job is to arrest bad guys...and it's just one donut...
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