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This study explores associations between BMI and prolonged sickness absence; cutting down at work; and health-related job loss (HRJL) over two years of follow-up among workers aged ≥50 years. A cohort of 2299 men and 2425 women (aged 50-64 years) self-reported height and weight at baseline and provided information about work ability at 12 and 24 months for the Health and Employment after Fifty (HEAF) Study. Associations between BMI and work ability were assessed by logistic regression and HRJL by multiple-record Cox's proportional hazards models, with adjustment for other risk factors. The prevalence of obesity/severe obesity was 22.6%/1.2% amongst men and 21.4%/2.6% amongst women, respectively. In men and women, obesity and severe obesity predicted having to cut down at work for health over two years. In women, severe obesity predicted prolonged sickness absence, and also HRJL even after adjustment for age, proximity to retirement, financial difficulties, and lifestyle factors (hazard ratio [HR] 2.93, 95% CI 1.38, 6.23), and additional adjustment for health conditions (HR 2.52, 95% CI 1.12, 5.67). Obesity, and particularly severe obesity, negatively impacts work ability amongst people aged 50-64 years, with greatest effects in women. Obesity can be expected to hinder attempts to encourage work to older ages.

Original publication




Journal article


Int j environ res public health

Publication Date





body mass index, health-related job loss, obesity, older worker, sickness absence, work ability