When it comes to worker obesity risk, not all job environments are created equal.
The latest data from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index found that workers from transportation, manufacturing, repair and service industries were more likely to be obese, while doctors, business owners, teachers and other professionals were least likely to have a body-mass index of 30 or over -- the clinical definition of obesity.
The survey also included information on 27 different lifestyle and psychological factors, including how often a person exercised, whether or not they smoked, if they visited the dentist or had a primary care physician and if they had a history of depression and, separately, access to healthy, affordable food.
It came as no surprise to analysts that the jobs associated with greater obesity rates were also more poorly paying jobs that required less education. Obese workers were less likely to exercise three or more times per week and were less likely to report having a safe place to exercise. They were less likely to have eaten healthfully the day before and more likely to report struggling to afford food in the past year. They were more likely to be depressed, but less likely to smoke; more likely to have a personal doctor, but less likely to have seen a dentist in the previous year.
Service workers, who had an obesity rate of 25.6 percent, were the least likely to have a safe place to exercise and the most likely to have been diagnosed with depression and to have struggled to afford food. Meanwhile, physicians performed the strongest in those three categories. Sales people were the least likely to eat well and office workers were the least likely to exercise at least 90 minuts per week, while farming, fishing and forestry workers had the highest rates of exercise and healthful eating. Construction workers were the least likely to visit a dentist, while teachers were the most likely.
Last year, Reuters reported that the annual medical costs of obesity were double earlier estimates, clocking in at $190 billion for the U.S. And the Mayo Clinic found that obese workers cost employers exponentially more as their weights go up: For those between a BMI of 30 and 35, each person uses up $1,850 more per year in medical costs, while those with a BMI of 35 to 40 cost an additional $3,086. For those with a BMI of 40 and above, the annual added cost is $5,530, according to the estimates.
The personal cost of obesity is high, as employers discriminate against obese workers. That can have an effect on salaries, with obese women earning an average 6.2 percent less than normal-weighing counterparts.
The analysts behind Gallup's survey recommend that employers use this information to create effective and easy interventions, like offering safe exercise space and developing healthy food programs that will ensure access for all employees. Another strategy? Work on overall office culture, write the researchers:
Gallup research also finds that engaged employees exercise more frequently and also eat healthier than those who are not engaged or are actively disengaged. Therefore, employers who prioritize employee engagement may see a double benefit of healthier and happier workers.
Does your job offer incentives to stay healthy? Tell us about it in the comments. And read on for a ranking of the most and least obese workers in the U.S.: