weight gain

A recent study explores the effects of daily activity patterns including stress and sleep on job loss weight gain.

Job loss is a stressful life event that is associated with serious financial as well as health implications. Unemployed individuals are often living an unhealthy lifestyle that could lead to obesity, the risk of chronic diseases, and mortality. Many studies have found an association between job loss and subsequent weight gain but few have examined the behaviors that may contribute to job loss weight gain.

Past studies indicate that unemployed people are more likely to have higher body mass index compared with those who are employed. Social rhythm, defined as a person’s daily habitual behaviors such as mealtimes, sleep patterns, and physical activity occurring in a rhythmic 24-hour cycle, is impacted by involuntary job loss. Disruptions in social rhythm may impact biological rhythms and sleep patterns thus leading to weight gain.

A university of Arizona study protocol recently published in BMC Public Health proposes to examine whether social rhythms and sleep patterns contribute to weight gain after an involuntary job loss. The Assessing Daily Activity Patterns through occupational Transitions (ADAPT) is an ongoing study that aims to advance research on obesity out of the laboratory setting into the real world. The researchers will follow 250 participants between 25-60 years of age who are recently unemployed within the Arizona Department of Economic Security (AZDES). The changes in weight gain, waist circumference, social rhythms, sleep pattern, dietary intake, and physical activity are measured for all participants at first visit and up to six visits three to four months apart for a total of 18 months.

The Specific ADAPT Objectives

The ADAPT study aims to examine how social rhythms and sleep impact weight gain after a job loss. In addition, the association of short and disturbed sleep with social rhythm and weight change will also be evaluated. Furthermore, the study will also explore the impact of reemployment with stabilization of social rhythm, sleep, and weight change. By testing these hypotheses the study aims to generate data that will support the development of interventions to target weight gain, daily rhythms, and sleep in unemployed populations.


Relevance for Job Loss Weight Gain

Research suggests that obesity rates increase during a recession. The ADAPT researchers believe that poor quality of sleep and stress after a job loss are the major contributing factors for weight gain. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, average sleep duration among Americans is declining while the quality of sleep is simultaneously deteriorating. The proposed research will help determine how daily activity patterns, stress, and sleep are interrelated to cause job loss weight gain. The results of the study may help in the identification of unemployed individuals prone to weight gain and help create better intervention programs.

Strengths and Weaknesses

The ADAPT study employs state-of-the-art procedures for measurement of various parameters such as weight gain, dietary intake, and energy expenditure. The study uses daily sleep diaries and actigraphy (a method to measure human rest/activity cycles) to capture the participants’ activities and behaviors in real time. These methods overcome the bias associated with self-reporting and questionnaires.

The ADAPT design, however, does not include a baseline assessment prior to job loss. Therefore, it is hard to make conclusions whether social rhythm and sleep disruptions in an individual are caused by job loss.

The relationship between unemployment and weight gain is of interest for both scientific and social reasons. With an increasing prevalence of obesity, it is pertinent to determine all the factors associated with job loss weight gain. The ADAPT study examines the interactions between daily behavioral patterns and sleep after an involuntary job loss. The results will help enhance weight loss and behavioral intervention programs by including sleep and social rhythms in the intervention programs targeted for unemployed individuals. These changes will certainly benefit a large segment of the population.

Written by Preeti Paul, MS Biochemistry

Reference: Patricia L. Haynes, Graciela E. Silva et al. Longitudinal assessment of daily activity patterns on weight change after involuntary job loss: the ADAPT study protocol. BMC Public Health (2017) 17:93

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