Women gain weight when job demands are high

Researchers at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden the predisposition of women to gain weight from pressures at the workplace have concluded that high job demands do play a role in women’s weight gain, while this association was not found in the case of men.

The study, which involved over 3,800 people, investigated on three occasions over a 20-year period such variables as body weight, and demands and control at work of the participants. There were followed either from age 30 to 50 or from 40 to 60.

To estimate the level of job demands, the respondents were asked about their work pace, psychological pressures, whether there was enough time for their duties and how often the demands made were contradictory.

The questions about control at work covered such matters as how often they learned something new; whether the job called for imagination or advanced skills; and whether the respondent was personally able to choose what to do and how to do it.

The results show that the respondents with a low degree of control in their work more frequently gained considerable weight, defined as a weight gain of 10 percent or more, in the course of the study. This applied to women and men alike.

On the other hand, long-term exposure to high job demands played a part only for women. In just over half of the women who had been subjected to high demands, a major increase in weight took place over the 20 years. This gain in weight was some 20 percent higher than in women subject to low job demands.

Academic education or the lack of it did not appear to have a bearing in the study; neither did the quality of diet or other lifestyle factors. Given the problems associated with work-related stress, the study is relevant in terms of public health, said the researchers. Identifying those groups who are susceptible to stress and implementing efforts to reduce work-related stress could likely achieve a decrease not only in weight gain, but also in the incidence of ill health, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes, said the study team.