Job Strain as a Risk Factor for Leisure-Time Physical Inactivity: An Individual-Participant Meta-Analysis of Up to 170,000 Men and Women

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Abstract

Unfavorable work characteristics, such as low job control and too high or too low job demands, have been suggested to increase the likelihood of physical inactivity during leisure time, but this has not been verified in large-scale studies. The authors combined individual-level data from 14 European cohort studies (baseline years from 1985–1988 to 2006–2008) to examine the association between unfavorable work characteristics and leisure-time physical inactivity in a total of 170,162 employees (50% women; mean age, 43.5 years). Of these employees, 56,735 were reexamined after 2–9 years. In cross-sectional analyses, the odds for physical inactivity were 26% higher (odds ratio = 1.26, 95% confidence interval: 1.15, 1.38) for employees with high-strain jobs (low control/high demands) and 21% higher (odds ratio = 1.21, 95% confidence interval: 1.11, 1.31) for those with passive jobs (low control/low demands) compared with employees in low-strain jobs (high control/low demands). In prospective analyses restricted to physically active participants, the odds of becoming physically inactive during follow-up were 21% and 20% higher for those with high-strain (odds ratio = 1.21, 95% confidence interval: 1.11, 1.32) and passive (odds ratio = 1.20, 95% confidence interval: 1.11, 1.30) jobs at baseline. These data suggest that unfavorable work characteristics may have a spillover effect on leisure-time physical activity.

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