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Employment, work hours and weight gain among middle-aged women



To investigate the influence of employment and work hours on weight gain and weight loss among middle-aged women.


Quantile regression techniques were used to estimate the influence of employment and hours worked on percentage weight change over 2 years across the entire distribution of weight change in a cohort of middle-aged women. A range of controls was included in the models to isolate the effect of work status.


A total of 9276 women aged 45–50 years at baseline who were present in both the 1996 and 1998 surveys of the Australian Longitudinal Study of Women’s Health. The women were a representative sample of the Australian population.


Being out of the labour force or unemployed was associated with lower weight gain and higher weight loss than being employed. The association was stronger at low to moderate levels of weight gain. Among employed women, working regular (35–40), long (41–48) or very long (49+) hours was associated with increasingly higher levels of weight gain compared with working part-time hours. The association was stronger for women with greater weight gain overall. The association between unemployment and weight change became insignificant when health status was controlled for.


Employment was associated with more weight gain and less weight loss. Among the employed, working longer hours was associated with more weight gain, especially at the higher levels of weight gain where the health consequences are more serious. These findings suggest that as women work longer hours they are more likely to make lifestyle choices that are associated with weight gain.

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The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health was conceived and developed by researchers at the Universities of Newcastle and Queensland, and is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing.

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Correspondence to N Au.

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Au, N., Hauck, K. & Hollingsworth, B. Employment, work hours and weight gain among middle-aged women. Int J Obes 37, 718–724 (2013).

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  • weight gain
  • women
  • labour force participation
  • employment
  • work hours

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