The prevalence of chronic psychological complaints and emotional exhaustion among overweight and obese workers
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- Proper, K.I., Koppes, L.L.J., van Zwieten, M.H.J. et al. Int Arch Occup Environ Health (2012) 85: 537. doi:10.1007/s00420-011-0703-y
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Literature suggests a relationship between overweight and obesity, and mental health problems, but data regarding prevalence rates are scarce. This study aimed to determine the prevalence of chronic psychological complaints and emotional exhaustion among overweight and obese workers.
Data were used from the Netherlands Working Conditions Survey (NWCS), which is representative for Dutch employees (n = 43,928). Based on self-reported body mass index (BMI), workers were classified into underweight, healthy weight, overweight, and obesity. Respondents indicated whether they suffered from chronic psychological complaints. Emotional exhaustion was measured by using the UBOS subscale. Logistic regression analyses were used to test differences in prevalence across weight categories, with healthy weight as the reference group. Analyses were stratified for gender, age, education, and occupation.
Of the obese workers, 15.7% reported emotional exhaustion and 3.7% reported chronic psychological complaints. These prevalence rates were significantly higher than among healthy weight workers. A significant J shape was found with healthy weight workers reporting the lowest prevalence of both indicators of mental health problems. This J shape was generally also seen among the gender, age, education, and occupation subgroups, though not consistently significant.
Considering the proportion of obese workers that also suffers from psychological co-morbidities, interventions targeting obesity should take this into account. As weight-related stigma may play a role in the risk for mental health problems among obese workers, future longitudinal research on the mechanisms for the relation between overweight and mental health problems are recommended.