Is Stress Making You Fat?

Before you reach for the junk food after a rough day at the office, chew on this: A new study found that overweight people gain more when stressed by work.

The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study about the association of stress and weight gain. The research analyzed 1,355 men and women in the U.S., assessing their body mass index (BMI) for multiple domains of psychosocial stress related to work, personal relationships, life constraints, and finances, according to the study abstract.

Both overweight men and women tended to put on the pounds from job-related demands and difficulty paying bills, but women also saw weight gain from family-related matters.

Among men with high baseline BMI, weight gain was associated with increasing level of stress related to job-related demands, lack of skill discretion, lack of decision authority, and difficulty paying bills.

Among women with high baseline body mass index, weight gain was associated with job-related demands, perceived constraints in life, strain in relationships to family, and difficulty paying bills.

The research concluded that addressing psychosocial stress could limit weight gain among overweight and obese men and women.

“This tells us that periods of stress, like we are experiencing right now with the economic decline, can lead to even more weight gain among those who already have a weight problem,” lead author Jason Block, a faculty member at Harvard Medical School, told USA TODAY.  “And weight-loss programs should incorporate stress-reduction techniques as part of their plans to help people lose weight more successfully.”