If you’re having a battle with your scale, it may have something to do with the kind of control you have at your day job.
According to researchers from Australia, people who are considered the movers and shakers—those in a position of authority who make numerous decisions at their place of employment—have a higher BMI (body mass index) and a bigger waistline compared to those who have the freedom to use their skills.
Other studies have linked the work and weight connection. For example, earlier this year, European researchers concluded that a change in job stress and an increased workload could add more pounds to your frame. However, this latest study, which was published in Social Science & Medicine, is the first one to suggest that two psychological measures of control at the workplace can affect our size in different ways.
The team of health psychologists collected data from 450 adults (230 women, 220 men) who were employed in a variety of fields, both blue- and white-collar. Interviews regarding their work environment—specifically about how much control they have over their responsibilities—were conducted and assessed by referring to the Job Demand-Control-Support model (which is used to predict the psychological and physical well-being of job stress). Also, the body measurements of the volunteers—height, weight and waist circumference—were documented at a clinic.
And what they found was that people with demands labeled as “decision authority” (a term that describes an employee’s responsibility to make decisions that impact their job, their team and their company) were “strongly associated” with obesity, unlike those with more demands that fell under “skill discretion” (a term that describes the opportunity to use your skills and learn new abilities).
“Many people point to ‘eating too much and not moving enough’ as the cause of obesity,” said lead study author Christopher Bean, a PhD candidate in health psychology at the University of Adelaide, in a press release. “While this might explain how weight gain often happens, it does not acknowledge things such as environmental, psychological, social or cultural factors—these are some of the important why reasons that obesity happens.”
“The most obvious answer is that is the nature of the job itself—having to make big decisions—is associated with a higher degree of stress, which can be associated with weight gain,” Virginia W. Chang, MD, PhD, a physician and sociologist and an Associate Professor of Public Health at NYU Steinhardt and the Global Institute of Public Health, tells Yahoo Health. She explains that the higher number on the scale can result, in part, from the release of stress hormones, “such as cortisol, which has been associated with abdominal weight gain.”
Dr. Chang, who was not involved with this research, added another potential theory for this outcome. “Other possible explanations would be other underlying characteristics that cause people to be selected into these kinds of jobs,” she says. “So it’s not that the job itself—or the decision-making itself—is causing higher weight. It’s that these kinds of jobs are associated with other characteristics that lead people to being heavier.”