A 2010 study done at the University of Rochester Medical Center showed chronic job stress and lack of physical activity are strongly associated with being overweight or obese.
Of note, researchers found a diet rich in fruits and vegetables did little to offset the effect of chronic job stress on weight gain among the most sedentary employees. In those cases, exercise was the key to managing stress and keeping a healthy weight. The study looked at 2,782 upstate New York manufacturing facility employees.
The lead study author, Diana Fernandez, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D, agreed the study is among many associating stress with cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, depression, exhaustion, anxiety and weight gain. She advocates better corporate health policies especially in a poor economy when stress is a constant factor.
The upstate New York workplace mirrored the national statistics. Researchers collected baseline data from the nearly 2,800 employees, using body mass index (BMI) as the measurement for weight status. Overweight/obesity was defined as BMI greater than 24.9, and healthy/underweight was defined as less than 24.9.
They found that 72 to 75 percent of the employees were overweight or obese. Most of the study volunteers were middle-aged, white, married, highly educated (college degree or more), relatively well-paid (earning more than $60,000 a year), with an average of almost 22 years at the company.
Another important statistic: More than 65 percent of the employees said they watched two or more hours of television per day. Among those who reported watching two to three hours, 77 percent were more likely to be overweight or obese, and those who watched four or more hours of TV a day increased their odds of obesity by 150 percent, compared to people who watched less than two hours of daily TV.
In addition, investigators discovered employees working in the most high-job-strain conditions had almost one BMI unit more of weight than people who worked in more passive areas. Researchers did not find that chronic stressors (general dissatisfaction at work) and acute stressors (being a layoff survivor, or having entire operations decommissioned) together had a larger effect on weight than when examined independently.
The study concluded workplace wellness programs should not only offer ideas on how to be healthy, but should examine the organizational structure and provide ways to minimize a stressful environment for everyone.
Source: University of Rochester Medical Center, http://www.urmc.rochester.edu/news/story/index.cfm?id=2803