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Overweight, obesity and risk of work disability – a cohort study of construction workers in Germany
  1. Heiner Claessen (h.claessen{at}
  1. German Cancer Research Center, Germany
    1. Volker Arndt (v.arndt{at}
    1. German Cancer Research Center, Germany
      1. Christoph Drath (christoph.drath{at}
      1. Workmen’s Compensation Board for Construction Workers, Occupational Health Service, Germany
        1. Hermann Brenner (h.brenner{at}
        1. German Cancer Research Center, Germany


          Objectives: Although obesity and permanent work disability both are a great burden to the individual and cause high costs on the population level, data about the impact of being overweight on occupational disability are sparse, especially in physically hard working men.

          The aim of this study was to investigate the association of body mass index (BMI) with work disability among construction workers.

          Methods: The association between BMI and work disability was examined during a mean follow-up of 10.8 years in a cohort of 16 875 male construction workers in Württemberg, Germany, who participated in routine occupational health examinations from 1986 to 1992. Using the Cox proportional hazards model, hazard ratios were calculated with normal weight (20.0 to 22.4 kg/m²) as reference after adjustment for potential confounding factors.

          Results: Overall, a U-shaped association of BMI with all-cause work disability (total number: n = 3064 cases) was observed, with the lowest risk of disabilities at BMI levels between 25 and 27.4 kg/m². Strong positive associations were observed between BMI and work disability due to osteoarthritis or cardiovascular diseases whereas BMI was inversely related to work disability due to cancer, even after exclusion of the first three years of follow-up.

          Conclusions: Moderate overweight is not associated with increased risk of work disability among construction workers, but obesity increases the risk of work disability due to osteoarthritis and cardiovascular disease.

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