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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Psychosocial and other working conditions in relation to body mass index in a representative sample of Australian workers

Aleck S Ostry1*, Samia Radi234, Amber M Louie1 and Anthony D LaMontagne4*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Health Care and Epidemiology, University of British Columbia, 5804 Fairview Avenue, Vancouver BC, V6T 1Z3, Canada

2 Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

3 Unité INSERM 558, Toulouse, France

4 Centre for Health & Society, School of Population Health, University of Melbourne, 207 Bouverie Street, Melbourne VIC 3070, Australia

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BMC Public Health 2006, 6:53  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-6-53

Published: 2 March 2006



The aim of the study was to examine the relationship between psychosocial and other working conditions and body-mass index (BMI) in a working population. This study contributes to the approximately dozen investigations of job stress, which have demonstrated mixed positive and negative results in relation to obesity, overweight and BMI.


A cross-sectional population-based survey was conducted among working Australians in the state of Victoria. Participants were contacted by telephone from a random sample of phone book listings. Information on body mass index was self-reported as were psychosocial work conditions assessed using the demand/control and effort/reward imbalance models. Other working conditions measured included working hours, shift work, and physical demand. Separate linear regression analyses were undertaken for males and females, with adjustment for potential confounders.


A total of 1101 interviews (526 men and 575 women) were completed. Multivariate models (adjusted for socio-demographics) demonstrated no associations between job strain, as measured using the demand/control model, or ERI using the effort/reward imbalance model (after further adjustment for over commitment) and BMI among men and women. Multivariate models demonstrated a negative association between low reward and BMI among women. Among men, multivariate models demonstrated positive associations between high effort, high psychological demand, long working hours and BMI and a negative association between high physical demand and BMI. After controlling for the effort/reward imbalance or the demand/control model, the association between physical demand and working longer hours and BMI remained.


Among men and women the were differing patterns of both exposures to psychosocial working conditions and associations with BMI. Among men, working long hours was positively associated with higher BMI and this association was partly independent of job stress. Among men physical demand was negatively associated with BMI and this association was independent of job stress.