October 21, 2014

Longer working hours lead to weight gain

New research from the United States (US) shows that people who work for longer are more likely to be obese.

Studies have already highlighted the negative effects that obesity can have on an person’s employment prospects. Susan L. Averett notes that obese people are less likely to be employed than non-obese people, and earn lower wages when they do find employment.

However, certain jobs may be contributing to a person’s weight gain. Research by the US Census Bureau shows that for men in non-strenuous jobs, such as office-based jobs, ten additional working hours per week correlate with a body-mass index (BMI) increase of 0.2% on average.

These extra hours for women in non-strenuous jobs correlate with a 0.4% BMI increase on average.

Conversely, people who work for longer in jobs which require some physical exertion see no increase in their BMI.

This trend may be contributing to the overall rise in obesity in the US. Whereas 50% of American jobs in 1960 were considered strenuous, only 20% of jobs today require some extended form of physical activity.

As higher obesity levels lead to increased health care costs, businesses may soon be encouraged to implement obesity-reducing measures.

In her article, Averett discusses firm incentives for employees to lose weight, which have had varying degrees of success. These incentives range from free gym membership to self-funded commitment contracts aimed at addressing self-control problems.

How do you think employers can help to combat obesity? Let us know on Twitter @IZAWorldofLabor or on our LinkedIn group.