Are Your Business Trips Expanding Your Waistline?
The subjects were classified into one of five groups: no business travel, one to six days of business travel per month (light travelers), seven to 13 days of business travel per month, 14 to 20 days of business travel per month, or more than 20 days of business travel per month (extensive travelers). Eighty percent of the participants traveled at least once a month. One percent of the subjects traveled more than 20 days per month. The investigators found that when employees who traveled more than 20 days per month for business were compared to those who only traveled one to six days per month, the extensive travelers were more likely to have a higher body mass index (27.5 kg/m2 versus 26.1 kg/m2), lower "good" HDL cholesterol levels (53.3 mg/DL versus 56.1 mg/DL), and higher diastolic blood pressure values (76.2 mmHG versus 74.6 mmHG). Furthermore, those employees who traveled extensively were more likely to rate their health as fair to poor in comparison to their counterparts who traveled less; however, employees who did not travel for business also tended to rate their health as fair to poor and had higher body mass index values (26.7 kg/M2) than those who traveled one to six days per month. The investigators attribute this latter finding to the "healthy worker effect," that is, individuals with ongoing health problems are less likely to be selected for business travel.
Researchers concluded that extensive business travel (more than 20 days per month), as well as no business travel, are associated with unfavorable health conditions. The authors noted that 81 percent of all business travel occurrs by automobiles, which is associated with long hours of sitting and poor eating habits (both increase the risk for obesity and cardiovascular disease). They also pointed out that business travel may increase job strain/stress, which has been linked to elevated blood pressure and cholesterol levels. The authors recommend workplace interventions, such as seminars on healthy eating and exercise while traveling, for individuals who travel extensively for business to reduce ill effects on health. They also suggest that employees actively monitor their health.
Journal of Occupational & Environmental Health; "Business Travel and Self-rated Health, Obesity, and Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors"; Catherine A. Richards, MPH and Andrew G. Rundle, DrPH; April 2011