Over 50% of Belgian workers currently have a body mass index (BMI) which is considered too high. In addition, in a new study out this Tuesday by the IDEWE group, the external Belgian service for prevention and protection in the workplace, average BMI has increased over the past 20 years. In 2013, the IDEWE took data on the height and weight of 237,925 workers, of which 112,386 were women and 125,539 men.
The BMI results are worrying, said IDEWE, showing “34% of workers included in the study to be overweight, with a BMI between 25 and 29.9, and 17% to be obese (BMI over 30)”.
The study also shows that the average BMI in Belgium is increasing, going from 24.6 in 1993 to 25.8 in 2013.
Weight is an issue more for men than women with 40.5% overweight and 17.3% obese in the male category and “only” 27.6% and 16.2% women respectively.
The study also shows an uneven distribution across different business sectors. “Excess weight and obesity in men are more common in the transport (73%), civil service (64%), construction (60%) and industry (60%) sectors.” In women, most cases of excess weight and obesity are recorded in the health care (45%), civil service (48%) and transport (45%) sectors “In the food sector, however, there is little difference between men and women,” stresses the group.
Given the established fact that people with a BMI over 30 are at greater risk of heart and vascular disease, diabetes and also sleep apnoea, and that the link between obesity and absenteeism as well as decreased productivity is also well documented, the IDEWE is calling for better prevention and health promotion in the workplace.
“In light of the disparities between sectors, a sector-based approach would seem the most appropriate,” concludes the group.