The proportion of overweight and obese people has grown rapidly, and obesity has now been widely recognized as an important public health problem. At the same time, stress has increased in working life. The 2 problems could be connected if work stress promotes unhealthy eating habits and sedentary behavior and thereby contributes to weight gain. This study explored the association between work stress and body mass index (BMI; kg/m2).
We used cross-sectional questionnaire data obtained from 45,810 female and male employees participating in the ongoing Finnish Public Sector Cohort Study. We constructed individual-level scores, as well as occupational- and organizational-level aggregated scores for work stress, as indicated by the demand/control model and the effort-reward imbalance model. Linear regression analyses were stratified by sex and socioeconomic status (SES) and adjusted for age, marital status, job contract, smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity, and negative affectivity.
The results with the aggregated scores showed that lower job control, higher job strain, and higher effort-reward imbalance were associated with a higher BMI. In men, lower job demands were also associated with a higher BMI. These associations were not accounted for by SES, although an additional adjustment for SES attenuated the associations. The results obtained with the individual-level scores were in the same direction, but the relationships were weaker than those obtained with the aggregated scores.
This study shows a weak association between work stress and BMI.