Open Access Open Badges Research article

Psychosocial work environment factors and weight change: a prospective study among Danish health care workers

Helle Gram Quist1*, Ulla Christensen2, Karl Bang Christensen3, Birgit Aust1, Vilhelm Borg1 and Jakob B Bjorner124

Author affiliations

1 National Research Centre for the Working Environment (NRCWE), Lersoe Parkalle 105, 2100, Copenhagen, Denmark

2 Department of Public Health, Section of Social Medicine, University of Copenhagen, Oester Farigmagsgade 5, 1014, Copenhagen, Denmark

3 Department of Public Health, Section of Biostatistics, University of Copenhagen, Oester Farigmagsgade 5, 1014, Copenhagen, Denmark

4 QualityMetric/OptumInsight, 24 Albion Road, Lincoln, RI, 02865, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2013, 13:43  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-43

Published: 17 January 2013



Lifestyle variables may serve as important intermediate factors between psychosocial work environment and health outcomes. Previous studies, focussing on work stress models have shown mixed and weak results in relation to weight change. This study aims to investigate psychosocial factors outside the classical work stress models as potential predictors of change in body mass index (BMI) in a population of health care workers.


A cohort study, with three years follow-up, was conducted among Danish health care workers (3982 women and 152 men). Logistic regression analyses examined change in BMI (more than +/− 2 kg/m2) as predicted by baseline psychosocial work factors (work pace, workload, quality of leadership, influence at work, meaning of work, predictability, commitment, role clarity, and role conflicts) and five covariates (age, cohabitation, physical work demands, type of work position and seniority).


Among women, high role conflicts predicted weight gain, while high role clarity predicted both weight gain and weight loss. Living alone also predicted weight gain among women, while older age decreased the odds of weight gain. High leadership quality predicted weight loss among men. Associations were generally weak, with the exception of quality of leadership, age, and cohabitation.


This study of a single occupational group suggested a few new risk factors for weight change outside the traditional work stress models.

Body mass index; Weight gain; Weight loss; Work stress; Psychosocial work factors