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Survey of Washington state residents also found salespeople, office workers prone to weight gain

By Alan Mozes

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Jan. 16, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Truck drivers, cleaning-service employees and mechanics are among the most obese groups of workers, new research contends.

Not far behind are health-service workers and administrative and clerical personnel, the study out of Washington state found.

The multiyear survey didn't draw a direct causal connection between types of jobs and excess weight. And the results apply only to Washington state.

And, one of the study's authors said, the measurement used to determine obesity can be misleading when applied to muscular people. People such as fire fighters and construction workers might fall into this group.

Still, the report does suggest that some jobs are harder on the waistline than others. People working in sales and tech support, for instance, weigh more than doctors, lawyers and construction workers, according to the study.

"People spend about a third -- or even half -- of their waking hours in the workplace," said study lead author Dr. David Bonauto, who's with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.

"But not all work environments are alike," Bonauto said. "With obesity a big public-health concern, the key message here is that any effort an employer can make toward promoting a healthier work environment and healthier behavior among employees in their particular work setting is going to be meaningful and helpful for both employee and employer."

Bonauto and his colleagues reported their findings in the January issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's journal Preventing Chronic Disease.

The authors analyzed results for odd years between 2003 and 2009 from an annual survey exploring eating habits, physical-activity routines and body-mass index (BMI). BMI is a measurement of body fat that takes height and weight into account.

The Washington survey was an expanded take on a standard CDC survey on behavioral risk factors. The state's version also asked the nearly 38,000 employed participants (between ages 18 and 64) to note both their job title and the industry in which they worked.

Overall, nearly one-quarter of this group was found to be obese (defined as having a BMI of 30 or higher). This figure was in line with national survey findings of an average obesity rate of 27 percent. The highest in-state risk for obesity was seen among those who were older, male and less educated; made less money; and worked in jobs that were not physically demanding.

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