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NIOSH: 1 in 5 workers is obese, inactive or sleep-deprived

May 2, 2018

Washington — More than 20 percent of workers are obese, don’t get enough physical activity or are short on sleep, according to a recent study from NIOSH.

Using 2013 and 2014 data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, researchers looked at workers from 29 states and 22 occupational groups.

They found that approximately 16 percent to 36 percent of workers had a body mass index of 30 or higher, and 1 in 5 workers said they had not engaged in any leisure-time physical activity in the past month. In addition, about 31 percent to 43 percent of respondents averaged less than seven hours of sleep a night.

Study results also showed that transportation and material moving workers had significantly higher prevalence of all three risk factors when compared to all workers. Three occupational groups had a higher prevalence of shortened sleep time compared with other workers: production, health care support, and health care and technical services.

Obesity, lack of sleep and physical inactivity can lead to serious illnesses, such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, 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. Evidence suggests that workplace factors such as working long hours and shift work may increase the likelihood of short sleep, obesity and physical inactivity.”

The researchers say more research is needed to identify and control workplace factors that contribute to these risk factors.

The study was published in December in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.