Objectives Firefighter health has received a great deal of increased attention over the past decade, but most work has been specific to men in the fire service due to small numbers of women, likely due to challenges with recruitment and retention of women in the fire service. While findings suggest men in the fire service struggle with high rates of overweight and obesity due to a number of occupational challenges, limited data are available on large samples of women firefighters.
Methods Using snowball sampling techniques, we conducted an online survey of both career (N=2,398) and volunteer (N=781) women firefighters.
Results Rates of obesity for both career (15.4%) and volunteer (31.6%) women firefighters were not only lower than men in the fire service (33.5% career and 43.2% volunteer), but also lower than the general population (41.1%). Women career and volunteer firefighters who engaged in heavy physical activity were less likely to be obese. Being a racial or ethnic minority firefighter was associated with being obese, as was serving more than 20 years in the fire service.
Conclusion Findings highlight that women firefighters have been successful in overcoming the occupational risks, such as a challenging nutrition environment, inconsistent schedules, limited time for fitness, and the metabolic impact of shift work, that put firefighters at increased risk for obesity.
- public health
Data availability statement
Data are available upon reasonable request. Data are available upon request. Please contact corresponding author for the data.
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Contributors All authors have contributed to the design, analysis and drafting the manuscript, and have approved this submitted version. SAJ is the guarantor and accepts full responsibility for the finished work, the conduct of the study, had access to the data, and controlled the decision to publish.
Funding The current study was funded by FEMA’s Assistance to Firefighters Research & Development Grant EMW-2015-FP-00847.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.