Finding a work-life balance that you’re satisfied with can be a challenge, especially if your job tends to bring on the stress. After all, feeling your best can take a backseat to your to-do list and mountain of emails. It seems like now there’s a bit of scientific proof that some jobs can actually affect your physical health. A study by researchers from the University of Adelaide, Central Queensland University and the University of South Australia found that your job may be affecting your waist size.


The study, published in Social Science & Medicine, suggests that the level of job control you have at work may have different effects on your physical health. According to the study, there may be a link between your skills — and the freedom to use them in your job — and your BMI and waistline.

Job control is usually associated with two things: skill discretion – having the skills and being able to apply them – and decision authority. Traditionally, increasing one’s job control is seen as a good thing. Previous research has considered these two components of job control together when studying their effects on one’s health. This latest study, however, suggests that these two factors may need to be assessed separately.

To come to their findings, the researchers analyzed data from 450 mostly middle-aged participants who worked in different blue- and white-collar jobs. They measured the height, weight and waistline of 230 women and 220 men through a health clinic, and also interviewed them via phone about their work. They used a framework called the Job Demand-Control-Support (JDCS) model to assess the psychosocial aspects of the participants’ work.

Using sex, age, household income, work hours and job nature as control variables, they analyzed the components of the model to see if there were associations. Only the two components of job control revealed significant associations. According to the results, having the skills and the freedom to use your skills at work are linked to a lower BMI and smaller waist size, while having to make a lot of decisions is linked to a bigger waist size.

While the results of the study are not enough to suggest changes to workplace programs or policies, it does show a connection between different factors at work and obesity. In a press release, Christopher Bean, lead author of the study and a PhD candidate in health psychology at the University of Adelaide, explains that “work stress is just a small part of a very large and tangled network of interactive factors,” but that work is a significant part of people’s lives, so it’s also important to understand how work-related factors can affect one’s physical health. He also states the need for further research on these factors.

What do you think are the specific factors in your job that affect your physical health? Share with us in the comments!

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