Social class and BMI among Canadian adults: a focus on occupational prestige

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2009 Feb;17(2):290-9. doi: 10.1038/oby.2008.539. Epub 2008 Nov 27.


The objective was to examine BMI of working-age Canadian adults in relation to occupational prestige, adjusting for other aspects of social class including household income and respondent's education. We analyzed data from 49,252 adults (age 25-64) from Cycle 2.1 of the Canadian Community Health Survey, a cross-sectional self-report survey conducted in 2003. Multiple linear regression was used to examine the relation between BMI and occupational prestige, adjusting for other sociodemographic variables. For women, higher ranking occupations showed lower average BMI relative to the lowest ranking occupations, but this effect was largely eliminated when adjusting for education. For men, occupation effects endured in adjusted models and we detected some evidence of a pattern whereby men in occupations characterized by management/supervisory responsibilities were heavier than those in the lowest ranking occupations (i.e., elemental sales and service). Results are interpreted in light of the symbolic value of body size in western culture, which differs for men and women. Men in positions of management/supervision may benefit from the physical dominance conveyed by a larger body size, and thus occupational prestige rankings may help us to understand the gender differences in the patterning of BMI by different indicators of social class.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Body Size
  • Canada
  • Career Mobility
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Data Collection
  • Educational Status
  • Employment / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupations
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Social Class*