Prevalence of obesity among U.S. workers and associations with occupational factors

Am J Prev Med. 2014 Mar;46(3):237-48. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2013.11.002.


Background: Along with public health and clinical professionals, employers are taking note of rising obesity rates among their employees, as obesity is strongly related to chronic health problems and concomitant increased healthcare costs. Contributors to the obesity epidemic are complex and numerous, and may include several work characteristics.

Purpose: To explore associations between occupational factors and obesity among U.S. workers.

Methods: Data from the 2010 National Health Interview Survey were utilized to calculate weighted prevalence rates and prevalence ratios (PRs) for obesity in relation to workweek length, work schedule, work arrangement, hostile work environment, job insecurity, work-family imbalance, and industry and occupation of employment. Data were collected in 2010 and analyzed in 2012-2013.

Results: Overall, 27.7% of U.S. workers met the BMI criterion for obesity. 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. Employment in health care and social assistance and public administration industries, as well as architecture and engineering, community and social service, protective service, and office and administrative support occupations was also associated with increased obesity prevalence.

Conclusions: Work-related factors may contribute to the high prevalence of obesity in the U.S. working population. Public health professionals and employers should consider workplace interventions that target organization-level factors, such as scheduling and prevention of workplace hostility, along with individual-level factors such as diet and exercise.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Employment / psychology
  • Employment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Hostility
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Work Schedule Tolerance / psychology
  • Workplace / psychology
  • Workplace / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult