Japanese office workers' health deteriorated during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic—even among those who were not infected, reports a study in the April Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
Machi Suka, MD, PhD, and colleagues of The Jikei University School of Medicine, Tokyo. analyzed data from annual health examinations performed in Japanese office workers between April 2018 and March 2021. The researchers compared incidence rates of common health problems and risk factors for approximately 33,000 employees examined before versus 20,000 examined after the start of the pandemic.
During the pandemic period, there were significant increases in rates of four common health problems: overweight, high blood pressure, high blood glucose level, and liver damage. The greatest increases occurred in overweight and liver damage; there was no change in the incidence of high cholesterol.
On assessment of health habits, workers examined after the pandemic were more likely to be physically inactive. That was so even though there was no "lockdown" in Japan at the start of the pandemic. In both men and women, decreased physical activity was strongly related to weight gain: employees with greater increases in body weight had greater increases in other health problems.
Men gained more weight than women, associated with increases in snacking and heavy drinking. Women had an increase in heavy drinking during the pandemic, but decreased rates of snacking and sleep deprivation.
In a 2020 survey study, the researchers reported "a clear shift to a sedentary lifestyle" during the pandemic, with nearly 20 percent of men and women reporting declining health. The new study, based on data from annual health exams, finds significant increases in overweight and other health problems among Japanese office workers.
Decreased physical activity appears to be a key contributor to increased body weight, which is associated with increases in other health problems. Dr. Suka and colleagues conclude, "Lifestyle interventions should be promptly started particularly targeting workers with gained weight to avoid more serious consequences."
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About the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
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) is the official journal of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Edited to serve as a guide for physicians, nurses, and researchers, the clinically oriented research articles are an excellent source for new ideas, concepts, techniques, and procedures that can be readily applied in the industrial or commercial employment setting.