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  • Katherine Sims

Stress Factors Cause Weight Gain

Occupational stress and obesity are both increasing in prevalence, but prospective findings relating these conditions can be inconsistent. In response to this inconsistency, Swedish researchers conducted a study of over 3800 men and women from 1991 to 2014, investigating if baseline body mass index (BMI) as well as prolonged exposure to high job demands and low decision authority, self-reported by participants, were associated with major weight gain (≥ 10% of baseline weight). 1

These researchers found that the most prevalent components of long term weight gain and increased BMI were high baseline BMI as well as personal lifestyle decisions in stressful situations, such as poor diet choices or smoking. Using the Swedish Nutrition recommendations and dietary guidelines, researchers discovered that only 2.9% of the population followed a high quality diet (low in saturated fats and sugars and high in fiber, produce, and fish).


Work related stress, particularly in women with high demand jobs, coupled with low professional decision-making authority, augmented and amplified poor diet and lifestyle choices, resulting in significant weight gain from the start of the study. One plausible explanation for why this is more prevalent in women than men is women’s double work load due to higher responsibility than men for their personal household. 2


This study suggests that women in high stress jobs who already have a high BMI are more likely to gain weight long term than men or women who have low stress jobs and a healthy BMI. Some possible solutions could include better diet and lifestyle choices to more equitable responsibility between men and women for personal household decisions.


1. doi: 10.1007/s00420-018-1392-6

2. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0038484.

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