Obesity in US workers: The National Health Interview Survey, 1986 to 2002

Am J Public Health. 2005 Sep;95(9):1614-22. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2004.050112. Epub 2005 Jul 28.


Objectives: Obesity has emerged as one of the most important public health issues in the United States. We assessed obesity prevalence rates and their trends among major US occupational groups.

Methods: Self-reported weight and height were collected annually on US workers, aged 18 years or older, from the 1986 to 1995 and the 1997 to 2002 National Health Interview Surveys. Overall, occupation-, race-, and gender-specific rates of obesity (defined as a body mass index>30.0 kg/m2) were calculated with data pooled from both study periods (n>600,000). Annual occupation-specific prevalence rates were also calculated, and their time trends were assessed.

Results: Obesity rates increased significantly over time among employed workers, irrespective of race and gender. The average yearly change increased from 0.61% (+/-.04) during the period from 1986 to 1995 to 0.95% (+/-.11) during the period from 1997 to 2002. Average obesity prevalence rates and corresponding trends varied considerably across occupational groups; pooled obesity prevalence rates were highest in motor vehicle operators (31.7% in men; 31.0% in women).

Conclusions: Weight loss intervention programs targeting workers employed in occupational groups with high or increasing rates of obesity are urgently needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Surveys*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • National Center for Health Statistics, U.S.
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / ethnology
  • Occupational Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Occupations / classification
  • Occupations / statistics & numerical data
  • Prevalence
  • United States / epidemiology