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Long-Lasting Obesity Predicts Poor Work Ability at Midlife

A 15-Year Follow-Up of the Northern Finland 1966 Birth Cohort Study

Nevanperä, Nina MSc; Ala-Mursula, Leena MD; Seitsamo, Jorma PhD; Remes, Jouko MSc; Auvinen, Juha MD, PhD; Hopsu, Leila MSc; Husman, Päivi MSc; Karppinen, Jaro MD, PhD; Järvelin, Marjo-Riitta MD, PhD; Laitinen, Jaana PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: December 2015 - Volume 57 - Issue 12 - p 1262–1268
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000000579

Objective: To investigate the effect of adulthood obesity on work ability in early midlife during a 15-year follow-up.

Methods: The study population included men and women (n = 5470), born in northern Finland in 1966. Participants evaluated their current perceived work ability compared with their lifetime best at the age of 46. Participants’ weight and height were measured at 31 years and self-reported at 46 years, and body mass indexes were calculated.

Results: Obesity at both ages, and developing obesity between the ages of 31 and 46 increased the relative risk of poor work ability at 46 years among sexes, and among those in both low and high physically strenuous work.

Conclusions: Long-term obesity and developing obesity in mid-adulthood increase the risk of poor work ability. Thus, the promotion of healthy behaviors by policies, healthcare services, and at workplaces is important.

Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (Ms Nevanperä, Dr Seitsamo, Mr Remes, Ms Hopsu, Ms Husman, Dr Karppinen, Dr Laitinen), Helsinki; Faculty of Medicine (Dr Ala-Mursula, Dr Auvinen, Dr Karppinen), Center for Life Course Epidemiology and Systems Medicine, University of Oulu; Medical Research Center Oulu (Dr Järvelin), University of Oulu and Oulu University Hospital, Finland; Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics (Dr Järvelin), MRC Health Protection Agency (HPE) Centre for Environment and Health, School of Public Health, Imperial College London, UK; Biocenter Oulu (Dr Järvelin), University of Oulu; and Unit of Primary Care (Drs Järvelin and Auvinen), Oulu University Hospital, Finland.

Address correspondence to: Nina Nevanperä, MSc, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Aapistie 1, 90220 Oulu, Finland (

The study was funded by The Finnish Work Environment Fund (project 111252). NFBC1966 has received financial support from University of Oulu Grant no. 65354, Oulu University Hospital Grant no. 2/97, 8/97, Ministry of Health and Social Affairs Grant no. 23/251/97, 160/97, 190/97, National Public Health Institute, Helsinki Grant no. 54121, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Oulu, Finland Grant no. 50621, 54231, ERDF—European Regional Development Fund, Grant no. 539/2010 A31592, the European Commission (EURO-BLCS, Framework 5 award QLG1-CT-2000-01643), EU H2020-PHC-2014-two-stage Understanding the dynamic determinants of glucose homeostasis and social capability to promote Healthy and active aging, Grant no. 633595.

Authors Nevanperä, Ala-Mursula, Seitsamo, Remes, Auvinen, Hopsu, Husman, Karppinen, Järvelin, and Laitinen have no relationships/conditions/circumstances that present potential conflict of interest.

The JOEM editorial board and planners have no financial interest related to this research.

Copyright © 2015 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine