Body Weight and Health Status: Importance of Socioeconomic Position and Working Conditions


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Department of Public Health, P.O. Box 41, FIN-00014 University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland. E-mail:


Objective: To examine the association between relative body weight and health status and the potential modifying effects of socioeconomic position and working conditions on this association.

Research Methods and Procedures: The data were derived from three identical cross-sectional surveys conducted in 2000, 2001, and 2002. Respondents to postal surveys were middle-aged employees of the City of Helsinki (7148 women and 1799 men, response rate 67%). BMI was based on self-reported weight and height. Health status was measured by the Short-Form 36 subscales and component summaries.

Results: Body weight was inversely associated with physical health, but in mental health, differences between BMI categories were small and inconsistent. In women, physical health deteriorated monotonically with increasing BMI, whereas in men, poor physical health was found among the obese only. Socioeconomic position did not modify the association between BMI and health. In women, the association between body weight and physical health became stronger with decreasing job control and increasing physical work load, whereas in men, a similar modifying effect was found for high job demands.

Discussion: Body weight was associated with physical health only. Lower levels of relative weight in women than in men may be associated with poor physical health. High body weight combined with adverse working conditions may impose a double burden on physical health.