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Job stress

Work stress found to promote obesity

Friday, September 07, 2007 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: job stress, chronic stress, health news

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(NewsTarget) Stress experienced at work significantly increases a person's risk of obesity in general and central obesity in particular, according to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

According to lead researcher Dr. Eric J. Brunner of the Royal Free and University College London Medical School, the study provides "firm evidence that high psychological workload, together with lack of social support at work, acts as a causal factor for obesity."

Prior studies have linked chronic stress to heart disease as well as metabolic syndrome, a combination of medical disorders tied to an increase in a person's risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Central obesity, or excess belly fat, is one of the symptoms of metabolic syndrome.

The researchers monitored 3,413 women and 6,895 men for 19 years, questioning them several times about their levels of job strain, which was defined as having heavy demands, little decision-making power and little social support at work. All participants were between the ages of 35 and 55 at the beginning of the study.

Regardless of sex, people who reported job strain on one occasion were 17 percent more likely to develop obesity or central obesity than those who reported none. Those who reported stress on two occasions were 24 percent more likely to become obese and 41 percent more likely to develop central obesity. Those who reported job strain on three or more occasions had a 73 percent higher chance of developing obesity and a 61 percent higher chance of developing central obesity.

Because a correlation is not necessarily proof of causation, the researchers adjusted for factors that could be related to both job stress and obesity, including smoking and socioeconomic status. This adjustment reduced the strength of the correlation between stress and obesity only slightly, leading to Brunner's claim that job stress is, in fact, one of the causes of obesity.
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