When some people are stressed, they eat "comfort foods" or increase the amount of food consumed, and as a result gain weight.
But what types of stress trigger weight gain? A new study in the American Journal of Epidemiology tackles that question.
John Ayanian of Harvard University and colleagues set out to look at the correlation of long-term weight gain with different types of stress related to work, personal relationships, life constraints and finances.
The study gathered data from 1,355 adults who completed an initial survey in 1995, when they were between the ages of 25 and 65, and completed a follow-up survey and exam nine years later. The researchers noted changes in the subjects' body mass index between the initial and follow-up surveys.
The results? Greater stress was associated with greater weight gain, at least in people who were already overweight. As the study elaborates:
This effect was evident for financial stress (measured by difficulty paying bills) for both men and women, for all work-related stress variables (less skill discretion, less decision authority and higher job-related demands) for men, and for job-related demands, perceived constraints in life, and straining in relationships with family for women.
Other interesting findings:
- Men and women 55-to 64-years-old experienced less weight gain compared with the youngest age group.
- In women, quitting smoking was associated with more weight gain.
- In men, generalized anxiety and an income between $25,000 and $44,999 were associated with more weight gain.
With people struggling to pay bills and paychecks decreasing, the recession is adding extra stress to the lives of millions—and with that extra stress, extra pounds might soon follow.