The Relationship Between Job Enrichment and Abdominal Obesity: A Longitudinal Field Study of Apparently Healthy Individuals

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Abstract

Obesity has become an epidemic in modern society. However, there is a paucity of research about how job context affects obesity. To enhance our knowledge we used a large, heterogeneous sample of apparently healthy employees (n = 1,949) across two time periods with an average of close to 3.5 years between measures. We tested a hypothesized curvilinear effect of job enrichment on changes in two stress related indicators of abdominal obesity over time: waist circumference (WC) and waist-hip ratio (WHR). Job enrichment consisted of the job dimensions of variety, identity, significance, autonomy, and feedback, and in our analysis we controlled for demographics and health related behaviors, including weekly sports activity, number of cigarettes smoked per day, and weekly alcohol consumption. The results supported the hypothesized U-shaped relationship between job enrichment and changes in both indicators of abdominal obesity over time, such that the level of abdominal obesity was reduced when job enrichment was moderate and was increased when job enrichment was either high or low. As expected, no such association was observed for the general obesity measure of body mass index (BMI). We discuss the theoretical and practical implications of these results.

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