In 1960, about one-half of the jobs in the United States were at least mildly physically strenuous. Gosh, how things have changed. Today, we’re a lot more sedentary. Just 20 percent of jobs are at all strenuous and has produced the wrong type of growth, according to Joelle Abramowitz, an economist at the U.S. Census Bureau and author of a paper entitled, The connection between working hours and body mass index in the U.S.: a time use analysis.
Abramowitz found 70 percent or more of people who work 40 or more hours a week are overweight. All those extra hours people put in trying to impress the boss, or wining and dining clients, don’t pay off when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight. For every 10 hours worked – over and above the weekly 40 – at a non-strenuous job, men gain about 1.4 pounds and women gain about 2.5 pounds. The Economist theorized longer work hours might translate into less exercise time, more take-out meals, and fewer hours of sleep. All of these have the potential to affect weight.
In a separate article, The Economist pointed out there has been a significant shift in the leisure time of the rich and the poor. One expert cited said, “In the 19th century you could tell how poor somebody was by how long they worked.” That has changed over time. In 1965, college-educated men, who tended to earn more than men without college degrees, had more leisure time than men with only high school diplomas. By 2005 the college-educated enjoyed eight hours less leisure time each week than the high school grads.
It’s interesting to note less than 60 percent of Americans who work 20 or fewer hours a week are overweight.