Academic journal article Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health

Psychosocial Factors at Work, Long Work Hours, and Obesity: A Systematic Review

Academic journal article Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health

Psychosocial Factors at Work, Long Work Hours, and Obesity: A Systematic Review

Article excerpt

Solovieva S, Lallukka T, Virtanen M, Viikari-Juntura E. Psychosocial factors at work, long work hours and obesity: a systematic review. Scand J Work Environ Health. 2013;39(3):241-258. doi:1 0.5271/sjweh.3364

Objectives Associations between psychosocial work environment and excess weight have not been systematically addressed. The aim of this systematic review was to summarize the published evidence for the associations of psychosocial factors at work and long work hours with weight-related outcomes.

Methods We conducted a search of Medline and Embase for all original articles published up to September 2012 using predefined keywords. After excluding studies with a definite selection bias, we included 39 articles.

Results About 60% of the studies reported at least one positive association between psychosocial factors at work and a weight-related outcome. However, 76% of the tested associations were found to be non-significant. Furthermore, the associations were rather weak. Studies of higher quality tended to observe associations more often than those of lower quality. Positive associations were found more frequently (i) among women versus men, (ii) in cross-sectional versus longitudinal studies, and (iii) for overweight or obesity versus other outcomes. About 70% of the studies reported positive associations between long work hours and weight-related outcomes. All four studies that evaluated the association between working overtime and weight gain (three longitudinal and one cross-sectional), showed a positive association among men and two of them also observed associations among women.

Conclusions We found evidence for weak associations between psychosocial factors at work and excess weight. Associations were observed between long work hours, working overtime, and weight gain, especially among men. More cohort studies among non-obese baseline participants using appropriate analytical methods based on an elaborated hypothetical model are needed.

Key terms effort-reward imbalance; job control; job demand; job insecurity; job strain; overweight; working overtime; weight gain.

Obesity has been defined as a process of excess fat accumulation due to a chronic positive shift of the energy equation resulting from an increase in energy input, a decrease in energy output, or both (1). Obesity is an important public health burden worldwide as it is associated with morbidity, disability, and mortality (2-6). It is a major cause of many diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, osteoarthritis, and low-back disorders (2, 7). According to a systematic review, obese workers in Europe had about ten extra days of absence per person-year compared with their normal-weight counterparts (8).

The prevalence of overweight and obesity has been increasing rapidly in Europe and all over the world and is estimated to increase further (9, 10). In Europe it has almost doubled in the last 25 years, and - if the current trend in the prevalence continues - 60% of men and 50% of women will be overweight or obese by 2030 (11).

Obesity is a complex condition with many causal contributors, including socioeconomic, environmental, behavioral, and genetic factors (12). Even though about 40-70% of the variance in obesity-related phenotypes can be attributed to genetics (13), the rapid increase in the prevalence of obesity during the past 40 years cannot be explained exclusively by genetic factors (14). It is more likely that the current epidemic of obesity is caused largely by changes in the social and physical environment that promote excessive food intake and discourage physical activity (15).

Major lifestyle factors such as dietary habits, physical activity, and sedentary behavior have traditionally been the main target in preventing and treating obesity (16-19). Most individuals gain about 10 kg between the ages of 20-50 years (on average up to 0.3 kg/year) (20). At the same age, most individuals spend about one third of their time at work, which suggests that occupational factors may contribute to weight gain (21). …

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