Trucks at Work

Battling the waistline bulge

When it comes to sustaining if not improving the overall health of truck drivers – much less the American labor force as a whole – losing weight remains a top factor, especially as a new survey finds many workers themselves feel they are overweight.

A survey of 3,105 full-time non-government and not self-employed workers aged 18 and over by the Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder.com between February 11 and March 6 this year found that 57% of U.S. workers now feel they are overweight, up from 55% in 2014.

Additionally, 42% of them say they've gained weight in their present job, up from 39% last year, with 22% reportedly gaining more than 10 pounds, while 16% said they've lost weight.

The health impact of weight gain on the human body is why those trends are worrisome as excessive weight can trigger Type 2 Diabetes, lead to sleep apnea, and other negatives.  

Indeed, five years ago the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducted an extensive study of 1,670 long-haul truck drivers at 32 truck stops across the “lower 48” states and made some scary findings:

  • Over two-thirds of respondents were obese (69%), as defined by a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, while 17% were morbidly obese with a BMI of 40 or higher.
  • In comparison, only one-third of U.S. working adults were reported to be obese and 7% morbidly obese.

What’s important about CareerBuilder’s survey, though, is that it gets at the reasons why workers gain weight – with stress being a leading factor.

Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder, said her company’s annual survey revealed a strong correlation between on-the-job stress levels and overweight workers, with fewer than half of workers (47%) with extremely low stress levels feeling themselves overweight compared to 70 % of workers with extremely high stress levels.

“That means workers with extremely high on-the-job stress are 49 percent more likely to say they're overweight than workers with extremely low stress,” she said.

When asked what they felt contributed to their weight gain at their current job, 37% of workers said "eating because of stress," and 43% said they are "too tired from work to exercise."

That last point is interesting because more than 1 in 4 U.S. workers (27%) said they get access to employer sponsored wellness benefits, including onsite workout facilities and gym passes, yet 63% of this group does not take advantage of them.

Sedentary behavior, however, is seen as the leading culprit, in workers' minds, with 56% saying "sitting at the desk most of the day" contributed to the weight gain at their present job. (Of course, trucks drivers do a lot of sitting, too; it’s just not at a desk.)

So what types of jobs are more likely to be “weight gaining” than others? Here’s what Careebuilder found:

  • Professional & Business Services: 51%
  • Information Technology: 48%
  • Financial Services: 45%
  • Healthcare: 45%
  • Sales: 41%
  • Leisure & Hospitality: 39%
  • Manufacturing 39%
  • Retail: 35%

Here are a few other factoids to chew on as well:

  • Gender: Women (46%) are more likely to report gaining weight at their present jobs than men (38%).
  • Job-level: Workers in management roles (43%) are almost equally likely as workers in non-management roles (42%) to report weight gains at their present jobs.
  • Age: Workers in the middle of their careers appear more prone to weight gain than younger or mature workers. Some 45% of workers age 35 to 54 reported gaining weight at their present job, compared to 38% of workers age 18 to 34 and 39% of workers 55 and over.

Trends to keep in mind as the trucking industry continues its search for folks willing to get behind the wheel of its big rigs.

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