Occupational risk of overweight and obesity: an analysis of the Australian Health Survey
Adults spend about one third of their day at work and occupation may be a risk factor for obesity because of associated socioeconomic and behavioral factors such as physical activity and sedentary time. The aim of this study was to examine body mass index (BMI) and prevalence of overweight and obesity by occupation and explore the contributions of socioeconomic factors and lifestyle behaviors (including leisure time and commuting physical activity, diet, smoking, and alcohol) to occupational risk.
Secondary analyses of the National Health Survey in Australia (2005) were conducted for working age adults (20 to 64 years). Linear and logistic regression models using BMI as either dichotomous or continuous response were computed for occupation type. Model 1 was age-adjusted, Model 2 adjusted for age and socioeconomic variables and Model 3 adjusted for age, socioeconomic variables and lifestyle behaviours. All models were stratified by gender.
Age-adjusted data indicated that men in associate professional (OR 1.34, 95% CI 1.10-1.63) and intermediate production and transport (OR 1.24 95% CI 1.03-1.50) occupations had a higher risk of BMI ≥ 25 kg/m2 than those without occupation, and women in professional (OR 0.71, 95% CI 0.61-0.82), management (OR 0.72, 95% CI 0.56-0.92) and advanced clerical and service occupations (OR 0.73 95% CI 0.58-0.93) had a lower risk. After adjustment for socioeconomic factors no occupational group had an increased risk but for males, professionals, tradesmen, laborers and elementary clerical workers had a lower risk as did female associate professionals and intermediate clerical workers. Adjustment for lifestyle factors explained the lower risk in the female professional and associate professionals but failed to account for the lower odds ratios in the other occupations.
The pattern of overweight and obesity among occupations differs by gender. Healthy lifestyle behaviors appear to protect females in professional and associate professional occupations from overweight. For high-risk occupations lifestyle modification could be included in workplace health promotion programs. Further investigation of gender-specific occupational behaviors and additional lifestyle behaviors to those assessed in the current Australian Health Survey, is indicated.