Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Papers,
Hanken School of Economics

No 523: The Physical Strenuousness of Work is Slightly Associated with an Upward Trend in the Body Mass Index

Petri Böckerman (), Edvard Johansson (), Pekka Jousilahti () and Antti Uutela ()
Additional contact information
Petri Böckerman: Labour Institute for Economic Research, Postal: Pitkäsillanranta 3A, FIN 00530 Helsinki, Finland
Edvard Johansson: Swedish School of Economics and Business Administration, Postal: Arkadiankatu 22, P.O.B. 479; FIN 00101 Helsinki, Finland
Pekka Jousilahti: National Public Health Institute, Postal: Mannerheimintie 166, FIN 00300 Helsinki, Finland
Antti Uutela: National Public Health Institute, Postal: Mannerheimintie 166, FIN 00300 Helsinki, Finland

Abstract: 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.

Keywords: BMI; body mass index; obesity; overweight; occupational structure

22 pages, February 8, 2007

Price: 10

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