Healthcare Law & Order: Adult Obesity Linked To Workplace Stress, Television

Summertime is fading into Fall. That means cooler temperatures and less time at the pool. It also means children are back in school, leaves are dropping, and the Fall television lineup is back on your schedule.

But, bfore you sit down to watch Law & Order reruns, consider the following.

It turns out, television is not only associated with higher rates of obesity in children, but with higher rates of obesity in adults, as well.  And, unfortunately, it’s not the Fall weather but high workplace stress levels that inspire people to tune in.

In fact, a new study published in January 2010 in The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine shows a connection between workplace stress, television watching, and obesity (via Science Daily).

According to research of lead author Diana Fernandez, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., an epidemiologist at the URMC Department of Community and Preventive Medicine, more than 65 percent of employees polled said they watched two or more hours of television per day.

Among those employees who reported watching two to three hours per day, 77 percent were more likely to be overweight or obese.

Those study participants who watched four or more hours of TV a day increased their odds of obesity by 150 percent, compared to people who watched less than two hours of daily TV.

Why so much television watching? It’s not because employees are eager to see the next episode of The Good Wife, Suits, or The Practice. Instead, stressful meetings and sitting seemingly endless days at a computer make employees wanted to go home and “veg out” in front of the TV.

Complaints about the health effects of stressful environments on workers should not be taken lightly.

In the case of obesity in children, for example, an author—who is both a lawyer and a doctor—of an article by the Journal of the American Medical Association called lack of proper care and prevention of morbidly obese children a crime, going so far as to suggest these kids should be placed in foster care.

“Ubiquitous junk food marketing, lack of opportunities for physically active recreation, and other aspects of modern society promote unhealthful lifestyles in children. Inadequate or unskilled parental supervision can leave children vulnerable to these obesigenic environmental influences.”

Similarly, inadequate corporate policies allowing workers time to exercise, eat well, or get a full night’s sleep without facing negative repercussions from their superiors might also be considered negligent.

Fernandez’s study showed some workers did not take the time to eat well or exercise at lunch for fear of negative consequences from leaving their desks for too long.

And, as Fernandez explained, this study associating high job pressure with cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, depression, exhaustion, anxiety and weight gain is just one of many.

It’s time for firms to improve corporate policies to better protect the health of workers.

“In a poor economy, companies should take care of the people who survive layoffs and end up staying in stressful jobs,” Fernandez said

“It is important to focus on strengthening wellness programs to provide good nutrition, ways to deal with job demands, and more opportunities for physical activity that are built into the regular workday without penalty.”

So, this Fall, have your firm turn over a new leaf. Encourage your employees to eat healthy and exercise. Coordinate membership deals with the local gym. Provide fresh fruit once a month. Pay greater attention to menus so the firm can cater late-night work dinners from healthier restaurants. If you see an associate who is overwhelmed and over-stressed, force them to take a break.

In general, ensure your associates prioritize good health along with their caseloads. Right now, it’s an ethical suggestion for improving productivity and increasing employee retention. In the future, it may (and should) become a legal requirement by your state.



Read more about how to create a healthy workplace in “Carpe Diem Your Way To More Clients, Better Health.


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