Work stress, weight gain and weight loss: evidence for bidirectional effects of job strain on body mass index in the Whitehall II study

University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Uusimaa, Finland
International Journal of Obesity (Impact Factor: 5.39). 07/2006; 30(6):982-7. DOI: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0803229
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Previous research has focused on overall associations between work stress and body mass index (BMI) ignoring the possibility that stress may cause some people to eat less and lose weight and others to eat more. Using longitudinal data, we studied whether work stress induced weight loss in lean individuals and weight gain in overweight individuals.
Prospective cohort study.
A total of 7965 British civil servants (5547 men and 2418 women) aged 35-55 at study entry (The Whitehall II study).
Work stress, indicated by the job strain model and measured as job control, job demands and job strain, was assessed at baseline and BMI at baseline and at 5-year follow-up.
In men, the effect of job strain on weight gain and weight loss was dependent on baseline BMI (P</=0.03). In the leanest quintile (BMI<22 kg/m(2)) at baseline, high job strain and low job control were associated with weight loss by follow-up, whereas among those in the highest BMI quintile (>27 kg/m(2)), these stress indicators were associated with subsequent weight gain. No corresponding interaction was seen among women.
Inconsistent findings reported by previous studies of stress and BMI have generally been interpreted to indicate the absence of an association. In light of our results, the possibility of differential effects of work stress should also be taken into account.

1 Follower
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The prevalence of obesity in the United States has increased significantly and is a particular concern for minority men. Studies focused at the community and national levels have reported that geography can play a substantial role in contributing to obesity, but little is known about how regional influences contribute to obesity among men. The objective of this study is to examine the association between geographic region and obesity among men in the United States and to determine if there are racial/ethnic differences in obesity within these geographic regions. Data from men, aged 18 years and older, from the National Health Interview Survey were combined for the years 2000 to 2010. Obesity was defined as body mass index (BMI) ≥30 kg/m(2). Logistic regression models were specified to calculate the odds ratio (OR) and 95% confidence interval (CI) for the association between geographic region and obesity and for race and obesity within geographic regions. Compared to men living in the Northeast, men living in the Midwest had significantly greater odds of being obese (OR = 1.09, 95% CI [1.02, 1.17]), and men living in the West had lower odds of being obese (OR = 0.82, 95% CI [0.76, 0.89]). Racial/ethnic differences were also observed within geographic region. Black men have greater odds of obesity than White men in the South, West, and Midwest. In the South and West, Hispanic men also have greater odds of obesity than White men. In all regions, Asian men have lower odds of obesity than White men. © The Author(s) 2015.
    American journal of men's health 01/2015; DOI:10.1177/1557988314565811 · 1.15 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: This study aimed to evaluate the contribution of work, non-work and individual factors to obesity with regard to gender-related differences, and to clarify the mediating role that psychological distress plays in these dynamics in Canada from 1994 to 2008 using the Canadian National Population Health Survey (NPHS). Longitudinal. The NPHS is a randomised longitudinal cohort study with biennial interviews of the Canadian adult population from 18 to 64. 5925 non-obese workers in cycle 1 (49% were women). Obesity was measured using the body mass index (BMI), with a threshold of BMI >30 kg/m(2). BMI was corrected in accordance with the recommendations of Connor Gorber et al to adjust for gender bias in responses. Of the work characteristics evaluated, only decision authority was associated with obesity for women but not for men. Living as a couple, child-related strains, psychotropic drug use, hypertension, being physically inactive and low psychological distress were obesity risk factors but were not moderated by gender. Overall, psychological distress did not mediate the associations that work factors have on obesity. Our study suggests that men and women differ little in the extent to which work, non-work and individual factors predict obesity. However, for women, the level of decision authority is associated with a lower obesity risk. In addition, psychological distress did not mediate the contribution of work factors and actually seems, contrary to expectations, to decrease the obesity risk when work, non-work and individual factors are taken into account. Published by the BMJ Publishing Group Limited. For permission to use (where not already granted under a licence) please go to
    BMJ Open 01/2015; 5(3):e006285. DOI:10.1136/bmjopen-2014-006285 · 2.06 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: People often crave for high-caloric sweet foods when facing stress and this 'emotional eating' is a most important cause for weight gain and obesity. Eating under stress contrasts with the normally expected response of a loss of appetite, yet in spite of intensive research from neurobiological and cognitive disciplines we still do not know why stress or negative affect triggers overeating in so many of us. Since the prevalence of overweight and obesity still rises, the discovery of crucial risk factors is a most desirable goal of today's research on sub-optimal eating habits. This paper summarizes the most relevant current knowledge from the (human) literature regarding cognitive and biological vulnerabilities for stress-induced emotional eating. A (non-systematic) review of the most relevant studies reveals that most studies contemplate a rather one-directional way of focusing on either cognitive or biological factors, showing inconsistent results. The current paper elaborates and/or integrates these findings into a biological-cognitive interaction model in which a specific combination of genetic and cognitive vulnerabilities are thought to increase our bio-behavioral response to stress, critically increasing the rewarding value of pleasant foods and, hence, emotional eating. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Ltd.
    Psychoneuroendocrinology 01/2015; 54C:41-53. DOI:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2015.01.013 · 5.59 Impact Factor


Available from