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Obesity and Physically Demanding Work

T he obesity epidemic is likely to have a particularly harsh impact on Texas companies hiring for physically challenging jobs — those in construction, homebuilding, oil exploration and the manufacture of oil and gas machinery, among other fields.

A 2009 study showed that “obesity increases the risk of work disability due to osteoarthritis and cardiovascular disease”

Such jobs require functional strength, balance and stamina, and the demand for candidates to fill them is increasing. In 2010, for example, Texas’ mining and logging sector — primarily oil and gas companies — led the state in job growth, adding more than 23,000 jobs.

Texas manufacturers saw expanded hiring in 2010 as well, much of it driven by increased demand for oil and natural gas drilling rigs. Rig construction accounted for the largest share of manufacturing job growth, with an increase of 13,400 jobs.

The effect of the obesity epidemic on the number of workers available for physically demanding jobs is difficult to gauge, but the link between obesity and work disability in general is well documented. A 2009 study by the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, for instance, showed that “obesity increases the risk of work disability due to osteoarthritis and cardiovascular disease.”62

End Notes

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  • 62 H. Claessen, V Arndt, C Drath, H. Brenner, “Overweight, Obesity and Risk of Work Disability: A Cohort Study of Construction Workers in Germany,” Occupational and Environmental Medicine (2009), pp. 402-409.
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