Study: Healthcare Industry Linked to High Obesity Rate Among Workers

Healthcare is one of five industries linked to the highest obesity rates, according to a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

For the study, researchers analyzed data collected in 2010 to calculate obesity rates in relation to occupation and occupational factors. They broke findings down by obesity rates and mean body mass index per industry, as well as obesity rates and mean BMI per occupation.

Healthcare and social assistance ranked fifth out of 20 industries, with a weighted obesity rate of 32 percent. Researchers estimated there are approximately 5.7 million obese healthcare and social assistance workers. Further, healthcare and social assistance was one of the only two industries that had significantly higher-than-average obesity rates after study authors adjusted for factors such as race, gender and health behaviors like smoking.

Healthcare had mixed results in the occupation-specific ranking, however. "Healthcare practitioners and technical" occupations have a weighted obesity rate of 22 percent, falling on the leaner end of the spectrum. But "healthcare support" positions, including home health aides, nursing assistances, medical transcriptionists and other non-diagnosing positions, have the third-highest obesity rate at 34.8 percent.

"This finding is consistent with a previous study based on [National Health Interview Survey] data from 1986 through 2002, which reported that female health services were among the occupational categories with the highest pooled obesity rates, while both male and female workers in health-diagnosing occupations, which generally have higher incomes, exhibited some of the lowest obesity rates," according to the study.

Healthcare aside, public administration was the industry with the highest obesity rate — slightly more than 36 percent. At 19.9 percent, real estate had the lowest obesity rate.

Occupations in protective services were linked to the highest obesity rate, at 40.7 percent. The lowest obesity rates were tied to occupations in "life, physical and social science" (14.2 percent) and "art, entertainment and media" (20.1 percent).

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