Can working overtime affect my weight?

Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine investigated the association between obesity and work schedules among 1,700 women nurses. They divided the nurses into two categories: those with favorable work schedules, and those with unfavorable work schedules.

Among the nurses in the study, 700 were determined to have unfavorable, or adverse, work schedules. The remaining 1,000 nurses were considered to have favorable work schedules. Researchers then examined the incidence of obesity among each group, and factors related to health behaviors, home demands, and work demands that might contribute to obesity. They found a majority of nurses were overweight or obese, and that work schedules appeared to influence the risk factors that contributed to weight problems: 
  • 55% of nurses in both groups were either overweight or obese.
  • Nurses with unfavorable work schedules slept less, reported less restful sleep, and exercised less than their counterparts with more favorable schedules. Obesity among this group was linked to these factors. 
  • Among nurses with favorable work schedules, obesity was more strongly linked to unhealthy behaviors, including smoking, and alcohol use, and to job stress.
There is other research that shows overtime hours and adverse work conditions may be linked to obesity among a broader work population:
  • This research project compared data from three groups of workers in three different nations and found that lack of physical activity, unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, and obesity itself were associated in different ways with adverse work conditions including job strain and working overtime.
  • A study of Japanese mail workers found a possible link between job stress and overeating leading to obesity.
  • A three-year study of white-collar workers found an association between body-mass index and waist size and overtime work

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.