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Obesity in US Workers: The National Health Interview Survey, 1986 to 2002

Alberto J. Caban, MPH, David J. Lee, PhD, Lora E. Fleming, MD, PhD, Orlando Gómez-Marín, MSc, PhD, William LeBlanc, PhD, Terry Pitman, B

Published Ahead of Print on July 28, 2005, as 10.2105/AJPH.2004.050112

Objectives. Obesity has emerged as one of the most important public health issues in the United States. The present study assesses obesity prevalence rates and their trends among major US occupational groups.

Methods. Self-reported weight and height were collected annually on US workers, aged 18 years or older, from the 1986 to 1995 and the 1997 to 2002 National Health Interview Surveys. Overall, occupation-, race-, and gender-specific rates of obesity (defined as a body mass index > 30.0 kg/m2) were calculated with data pooled from both study periods (n > 600 000). Annual occupation specific prevalence rates were also calculated, and their time trends assessed.

Results. Obesity rates increased significantly over time among employed workers, irrespective of race and gender. The average yearly change increased from 0.61% (±.04) during the period from 1986 to –1995, to 0.95% (±.11) during the period from 1997 to 2002. Average obesity prevalence rates and corresponding trends varied considerably across occupational groups; pooled obesity prevalence rates were highest in motor vehicle operators (31.7% in men; 31.0% in women).

Conclusions. Weight loss intervention programs targeted to workers employed in occupational groups with high or increasing rates of obesity are urgently needed. (Am J Public Health. 2005;95:XXX–XXX. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2004.050112)

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