Obesity trends by industry of employment in the United States, 2004 to 2011

Chandra L. Jackson, Christina C. Wee, David A. Hurtado, Ichiro Kawachi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Background: Obesity is associated with increased morbidity, occupational injuries, and premature mortality. Obesity also disproportionately affects blacks and socioeconomically disadvantaged workers. However, few studies have evaluated national trends of obesity by employment industry overall and especially by race. Methods: To investigate national trends of obesity by employment industry overall and by race, we estimated the agestandardized obesity prevalence from 2004 to 2011. We used direct age-standardization with the 2000 US Census population as the standard among 136,923 adults in the US National Health Interview Survey. We also estimated prevalence ratios (PRs) for obesity in black women andmen compared to their white counterparts for each employment industry using adjusted Poisson regression models with robust variance. Results: Obesity prevalence increased for men and women over the study period across all employment industry categories, and the healthcare industry had the highest overall age-standardized prevalence (30 %). Black women had a significantly higher obesity prevalence than white women across all employment industry categories, ranging from 33 % (95 % confidence interval (CI): 1.16,1.52) in Professional/Management to 74 % in Education (95 % CI: 1.56,1.93). Obesity prevalence was higher among black than white men for Healthcare (PR = 1.39 [1.15,1.69]), Education (PR = 1.39 [1.17,1.67]), Public Administration (PR = 1.34 [1.20,1.49]), and Manufacturing (PR = 1.19 [1.11,1.27]). Differences in obesity prevalence by race were generally widest in professional/management occupations. Conclusions: Obesity trends varied substantially overall as well as within and between race-gender groups across employment industries. These findings demonstrate the need for further investigation of racial and sociocultural disparities in the work-obesity relationship to employ strategies designed to address these disparities while improving health among all US workers. Further research and interventions among workers in industries with an increasing or high prevalence of obesity should be prioritized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20
JournalBMC Obesity
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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