One in Five Workers is Obese, Physically Inactive, or Lacking Sleep

USA – More than 20 percent of workers are obese, don’t get enough physical activity or are lacking in sleep, according to a recent study from NIOSH.

Researchers observed workers from 29 states and 22 occupational groups, using 2013 and 2014 data from the Behavioural Risk Factor Surveillance System. It was discovered that approximately 16 to 36 percent of workers had a body mass index of 30 or higher, and one in five workers claimed they had not engaged in any leisurely physical activity within the past month. In addition, approximately 30 – 43 percent of respondents averaged less than seven hours of sleep per night.

Results also showed that transportation and material moving workers exhibited all three risk factors at a significantly higher rate. Occupational groups that had a higher prevalence of shortened sleep included: production, healthcare support, and health care and technical services.

The study concludes that more research is needed to properly identify and control workplace factors that contribute to these risk factors. However, some research already exists that highlights the effect these conditions have on health and safety. Research suggests obesity may increase the risk of some occupational diseases, including musculoskeletal disorders, asthma, and vibration-induced injury. Overweight employees may also be less productive, more prone to injury, and have higher claim costs. 

Meanwhile, the effect of poor sleep on workers is well documented. Lack of sleep has been linked to reduced productivity, increased errors, increased absenteeism and presenteeism, and has the potential to cause catastrophic incidents. According to research, workplace factors such as shift work and long hours may increase the likelihood of shortened sleep, obesity and physical inactivity.

Obesity, physical inactivity and lack of sleep can also lead to serious illnesses such as heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, NIOSH states, adding that, “obesity and physical inactivity negatively affect the U.S. economy, with annual health care costs estimated at $147 billion for obesity and $117 billion for inadequate physical activity.” 

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