The Physical Strenuousness of Work is Slightly Associated with an Upward Trend in the Body Mass Index
This paper explores the relationship between the physical strenuousness of work and the body mass index in Finland, using individual microdata over the period 1972-2002. The data contain self-reported information about the physical strenuousness of a respondent’s current occupation. Our estimates show that the changes in the physical strenuousness of work can explain around 8% at most of the definite increase in BMI observed over the period. The main reason for this appears to be that the quantitative magnitude of the effect of the physical strenuousness of work on BMI is rather moderate. Hence, according to the point estimates, BMI is only around 1.5% lower when one’s current occupation is physically very demanding and involves lifting and carrying heavy objects compared with sedentary job (reference group of the estimations), other things being equal. Accordingly, the changes in eating habits and the amount of physical activity during leisure time must be the most important contributors to the upward trend in BMI in industrialised countries, but not the changes in the labour market structure.
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