The association between work stress and obesity has long been a topic of discussion. Previous studies have shown that when exposed to stress, frequently we resort to food for comfort. Additionally, exposure to chronic stress is associated with a greater amount of fat around the body's internal organs, secondary to increased caloric intake.
In a recent issue of Social Science & Medicine one study looked at psychosocial work factors and their impact on obesity as measured by waist circumference and body mass index (BMI).
Researchers from three Australian universities looked at two components of job control in the work place: skill discretion and decision authority.
Skill discretion refers to the skills that one possesses and the ability to utilize them. Decision authority speaks to one's ability to make decisions without being micro-managed.
In previous studies these two proficiencies were assessed together as one factor. However, the Australian authors have shown that combining the two skill sets appears to mask their individual relationships with obesity, which are quite opposite to each other.
From a sample population of 450 Southern Australians, male participants, older participants, and those with a lower household income on average had a higher waist circumference. Having then controlled for sex, age, and socioeconomic status, researchers discovered that more skill discretion was associated with a lower waist circumference, while more decision authority was linked to a higher waist circumference.
Though research exists with regards to these two components of job control and their differential associations with mortality, their differential relationship with regards to obesity had not been explored prior.
While these findings don't warrant formal changes to work place policies, they do encourage more research initiatives.