A study conducted by the University of Australia, University of Adelaide and Central Queensland University has found that those whose positions at work require a lot of decision-making tend to have a larger waist size. Linked to a lower BMI and smaller waist size are positions in which one has the freedom to use their skills, referred to as skills discretion.
Looking at another study that was done a few years ago, the researchers looked at data from 450 participants who worked in a variety of different industries and positions, both blue- and white-collar jobs. The participants’ height, weight and waist circumferences were measured in a clinic, and thereafter telephonic interviews were conducted to get their work information. The psycho-social dynamics of their jobs were assessed using the Job Demand-Control-Support model.
The study explains that there are two ways that one can have control in the workplace: decision authority and skills discretion. According to Science Daily, traditionally when an employee’s job level was increased it was believed to be a good thing, considering the two job control factors as one thing as far as their health was concerned. This new study suggests that these two job control aspects should actually be considered as two separate entities.
“Many people point to ‘eating too much and not moving enough’ as the cause of obesity,” said lead author Christopher Bean, a health psychology PhD candidate from the University of Adelaide, in the study. “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 reasons why that obesity happens.”
This study looked at the two job control factors separately and after having considered other factors such as gender, age, household income, work hours and job nature, the researchers found that skills discretion and decision authority had a really close association with obesity, but had conflicting effects.
“When looking at the wide system of factors that cause and maintain obesity, work stress is just a small part of a very large and tangled network of interactive factors,” said Bean. “On the other hand, work is a fundamental part of life for many, so it is important to find innovative ways of extending our understanding of how factors at work may be implicated in the development and maintenance of obesity. It is important to challenge the status quo and explore unexpected or counter-intuitive findings with curiosity.”