Job-loss and weight gain in British adults: Evidence from two longitudinal studies.
Social science & medicine (1982) 2015 ; 143: 223-31.
PubMed ID : 26364009
PMCID : PMC4610948
Overweight and obesity have been associated with unemployment but less is known about changes in weight associated with changes in employment. We examined weight changes associated with job-loss, retirement and maintaining employment in two samples of working adults in the United Kingdom. This was a prospective study of 7201 adults in the European Prospective Investigation of Cancer (EPIC)-Norfolk study (aged 39-76 years) and 4539 adults in the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) who were followed up over 43 months and 26 months, respectively. In both samples, changes in measured (EPIC) and self-reported (BHPS) weight were computed for each participant and assessed in relation to three employment transitions: maintaining paid employment, retirement and job-loss. Regression models adjusted for potential confounders. Further analyses evaluated the contribution of diet, physical activity and smoking to weight gain. In EPIC-Norfolk, weight change differed across the three employment transitions for women but not men. The mean (95% CI) annualised change in weight for women who became unemployed over the follow-up period was 0.70 (0.55, 0.85) kg/y while those who maintained employment gained 0.49 (0.43, 0.55) kg/y (P = 0.007). Accounting for changes in smoking, diet and physical activity did not substantially alter the difference in weight gain among groups. In BHPS, job-loss was associated with weight gain of 1.56 (0.89, 2.23) kg/y, while those who maintained employment 0.60 (0.53, 0.68) kg/y (P < 0.001). In both samples, weight changes associated with retirement were similar to those staying in work. In BHPS, job-loss was also associated with significant declines in self-reported well-being and increases in sleep-loss. Two UK-based samples of working adults reveal strong associations between job-loss and excess weight gain. The mediating behaviours are so far unclear but psychosocial mechanisms and sleep-loss may contribute to the excess weight gain among individuals who become unemployed.