Job-loss and weight gain in British adults: Evidence from two longitudinal studies
Social Science & Medicine 2015
Overweight and obesity have been associated with unemployment but less is known about changes in weight associated with changes in employment. We examined weight changes associated with job-loss, retirement and maintaining employment in two samples of working adults in the United Kingdom. This was a prospective study of 7201 adults in the European Prospective Investigation of Cancer (EPIC)-Norfolk study (aged 39–76 years) and 4539 adults in the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) who were followed up over 43 months and 26 months, respectively. In both samples, changes in measured (EPIC) and self-reported (BHPS) weight were computed for each participant and assessed in relation to three employment transitions: maintaining paid employment, retirement and job-loss. Regression models adjusted for potential confounders. Further analyses evaluated the contribution of diet, physical activity and smoking to weight gain. In EPIC-Norfolk, weight change differed across the three employment transitions for women but not men. The mean (95% CI) annualised change in weight for women who became unemployed over the follow-up period was 0.70 (0.55, 0.85) kg/y while those who maintained employment gained 0.49 (0.43, 0.55) kg/y (P = 0.007). Accounting for changes in smoking, diet and physical activity did not substantially alter the difference in weight gain among groups. In BHPS, job-loss was associated with weight gain of 1.56 (0.89, 2.23) kg/y, while those who maintained employment 0.60 (0.53, 0.68) kg/y (P < 0.001). In both samples, weight changes associated with retirement were similar to those staying in work. In BHPS, job-loss was also associated with significant declines in self-reported well-being and increases in sleep-loss. Two UK-based samples of working adults reveal strong associations between job-loss and excess weight gain. The mediating behaviours are so far unclear but psychosocial mechanisms and sleep-loss may contribute to the excess weight gain among individuals who become unemployed.