Obesity on the Job

Last week Statistics Canada released a new report on obesity and how it affects the Canadian Workforce.

The findings were based on an analysis of the nationally representative Canadian Community Health and National Population Health Surveys.

The following key findings are taken from the report:

– In 2005, 15.7% of employed Canadians aged 18 to 64, or more than two million people, were obese, up from 12.5% in the mid-1990s.

– Obesity was most prevalent among older workers aged 55 to 64, 21% of whom were obese in 2005. This held for both men and women, although the prevalence was lower among women.

– The odds of being absent from work were almost four times higher for obese young men aged 18 to 34 than for those with normal weight, after controlling for socioeconomic and health-related factors.

– Obesity was also related to reduced work activities, more disability days, and higher rates of work injury for women aged 35 to 54.

– Low education significantly increased the odds of obesity for both men and women. Women with low personal income were more likely to be obese than high-income earners.

– Compared with men in white-collar jobs, a higher proportion of blue-collar workers were obese.

– Men working longer hours (more than 40 per week) were also more likely to be obese than regular full-time workers who worked 30 to 40 hours per week.

– Compared with regular-schedule workers, a greater proportion of shift workers, both men and women, were obese.

– Obesity was also related to elevated levels of work stress. Obese workers reported higher job strain and lower support from co-workers.

Overall the report confirms numerous issues that are consistent with the literature: association between obesity and low education, poor income, high stress levels, shift work.

I was quoted by Shannon Proudfoot of CanWest in articles picked up across the Canadian media as follows:

“Obesity really is a societal problem,” said Dr. Arya M. Sharma, scientific director of the Canadian Obesity Network. “We’ve virtually eliminated physical activity from the workplace . . . We have to make up the lost physical activity in our spare time.”

“In Sharma’s opinion, the trend towards obesity in the workplace is unlikely to improve. The economic downturn, he said, will create stress for both employed and unemployed people, leading to an increase in stress-related eating. People are also less likely to eat healthy food, he said, and will cut back expenditures, such as sports and gym fees”

I have little to add – as blogged before – the true cost of obesity is NOT in health care!

Edmonton, Alberta