Fat And Unemployed: Is There A Connection?

obese unemployed

The high rate of obesity and unemployment are, in many ways, the two biggest problems afflicting America in 2012. It almost goes without saying, both have grown way too fast. A new study by the Robert Wood Foundation predicts that half of the country will be obese by 2030, up from one in three now. The unemployment rate -- while inching down since 2010 -- remains stubbornly high at 8.3 percent.

Now, a new raft of studies examines the relationship between these two ailments. Is America's rising obesity also contributing to unemployment? Or vice versa? And what happens when workers are both fat and unemployed?

More: Top 10 Jobs That Burn Calories


Overweight And Low-Paying Jobs: Cause Or Correlation?

It's well-documented that low income people tend to have higher rates of obesity. The conventional wisdom is that fatness is a side effect of low income. The thinking is that when people don't have a good job and are poor, they are more likely to shop at cheap supermarkets and eat poorly, and therefore become unhealthy. But a new study by Katherine Mason of the University of California, Berkeley, pokes holes in that theory -- at least for women. Mason argues that "fatness is often a contributor" to women's economic problems, such as unemployment and wage disparities.

How so? For Mason, a sociology professor, it comes down to outright discrimination against the overweight. She reached that conclusion after culling data from the 1997-2008 "National Longitudinal Survey of Youth." Among her findings: Unlike for men, "obese women's economic disadvantages persist over time."

Obese Workers And Hiring Managers Agree: Discrimination Exists
Other recent studies of human resources professionals also confirm discrimination is prevalent. According to the peer-reviewed BMC Public Health, HR professionals consistently "underestimated the occupational prestige of obese individuals and overestimated it for normal-weight individuals." The study was compiled by showing pictures of obese individuals to 127 human resource professionals, who were asked to allocate a profession for each person, from high prestige jobs like doctors, to other positions like cashier.

Obese people "were more often disqualified from being hired and less often nominated for a supervisory position, while non-ethnic normal-weight individuals were favored."

Moreover, in another study of 445 obese workers, 1 in 4 said that they have been denied benefits like health insurance because of their weight. In fact, allegations of weight discrimination grew 66 percent from 2000-2010 in employment settings, health-care facilities and educational institutions, according to Obesity.

As has been reported on AOL Jobs, appearance discrimination isn't illegal; the obese aren't automatically protected from discrimination. Only the state of Michigan and six U.S. cities have laws protecting the obese from discrimination. However, new amendments to 1990's Americans With Disabilities Act may make it possible for obese workers to be protected from discrimination for their weight condition.

More: 7 Part-Time Jobs That Pay Up To $40 An Hour


Does Obesity Create Job Opportunities?
The two issues of obesity and employment do, however, have a positive intersection -- a new market has been created. According to a report from Reuters, "fitness is shaping up as one of the hottest careers of this tepid economic recovery." The sector is expected to grow by 24 percent by 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

And the demand for fitness instructors is growing, despite the recession: health club membership is up by more than 10 percent over the past three years, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sports Club Association.

"The obesity epidemic has produced a lot of noise and talk and chatter," says Cedric Bryant, chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, which has certified more than 50,000 fitness professionals. "Helping individuals be more active is important and fitness professionals can be at the center of that."

Have you or someone you know suffered from discrimination because of weight? Share your stories below in the comments section.

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dtumbleweed1968

From a fiscal standpoint, hiring obese workers is going to hurt a company's bottom line more than people who are normal weight. This because of the cost health insurance they are providing to their workers. Obese workers statistically use a lot more health care because they tend to have more health issues. Ditto smokers, and double ditto obese who smoke.

From a personal integrity perspective, I have met some really hard working obese people in my life, and others not so much so, I don't think laziness plays a total and true factor - it's just a perception. However, when one does have an obese applicant, they of course would figure in if the lack of control issue is going to be a problem for their company. After all, if a person is obese, that means they are glutton. If a person cannot or will not control the amount of food and calories they are putting into their bodies, then I would question if they have the same issues related to the job, and would they be a wise fit for the company considering them.

April 06 2013 at 7:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
golfinkatiekat77

I am so incredibly tired of the viciousness and venom being spewed by fat-haters out there. It is, quite frankly, unbelievable to me that people actually feel justified in this level of cruelty. I guess I continue to underestimate peoples' capacity to rip each other apart. But for those of you out there who seem to want to be so preoccupied with my weight issues, let me say this: yes, I have a problem. A frailty. A fault. I would venture to guess that you do as well. We live in an imperfect world, populated by imperfect people. We all have our weaknesses. The difference between me and the guy who can't commit to a relationship or the woman who spends too much money on shoes, is that MY fault happens to be the first thing you see about me when we meet. Before you know that I am smart, or funny, or an awesome mother, or a loyal and devoted friend, you see that I am fat. I wonder how you would feel if your greatest weakness was announced before you ever spoke a word when you meet a new friend on colleague. Would you be embarrassed? Ashamed, even? I wonder. This much I know; my frailty is a failure that affects primarily me. I battle it every day, and some days are more successful than others. I do believe that the day will come that I will overcome it. But even if I don't, I figure if my biggest failure is my inability to make a good decision about what I eat for supper, and your biggest frailty is your willingness to rip another person to shreds because they are not attractive enough to meet your standards, I will take my failure, early mortality rate and all. I would prefer to be a fat woman with compassion and integrity any day.

October 15 2012 at 1:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to golfinkatiekat77's comment
Marc Rey

Thank you for your comment, I suffer from obesity and understand where you are coming from. I have been discriminated agaisnt so many times, that I lost count. I am 5' 8 weight 345lbs. I was denied jobs that only required a high school degree, when I have an undergraduate degree. I've given up looking for a job, until I lose weight.

July 03 2014 at 9:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
treeluva

A 50 pound requirement is a requirement for the job. I work in HR for a retailer and we have the requirement for 40 pounds because that is the weight of inventory that needs to be lifted from one place to another. No, not miles - but you have to be able to life the box off the shelf in the warehouse to put it on a cart/dolly whatever to get it to the floor. Not being able to do that means you are physically not able to do the job. That being said, there are reasonable accomodations for those who are phyiscally limited due to disability.

As far as overweight (obese) applicants - if they can do the job, they can do the job. The problem exists when they are in customer contact areas. It is the image of the company - and most organizations don't want that to be the image customers associate with their organization. Not saying it is right or even ethical - just stating what it is.

October 14 2012 at 12:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to treeluva's comment
uwishtoo0416

My best male friend is 48 years old and 5'7" and 120 pounds soaking wet. His metabolism is so high and always has been that he can't drink coffee without being totally wired. Yet he can lift 100 pound garage doors and he rides a 900 pound massive motorcycle. I have seen him go fist to cuffs with a man 6'1" and 200 pounds and he flatted him in a second! Fat people can be weak (I was) and skinny people can be strong.

May 22 2013 at 11:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Stephanie

The reason they do not want to hire obese people because the outlook is that obese people are lazy and what company wants to hire someone they think is going to do a poor job and not be a go getter?

September 26 2012 at 10:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Denileriverafter

There is also AGE and HANDICAP discrimination! I have 26 years of retail/customer service experience. I was laid off in Nov., EVERY job I've applied for says, "must be able to lift 50 lbs"!! WHO can do that? Show me one person over 50, or anyone in a wheelchair who can do that? For that matter...how may young women and high school girls can do that?!! I always say I can, but really don't if I could. I'm 53, but have I EVER been able to lift 50 lbs? I don't know. I've been unemployed since Thanksgiving 2011, and I've made it past the online application process THREE times!! Two of which I was hired,but only part time. I NEED full time!! So, I KNOW it wasn't my weight. The computer doesn't know how much I weigh, but it DOES know how old I am!! It's age discrimination! I think my application gets rejected the second the computer sees my birthdate! I never get to meet the person face to face! I never get to dazzle them with my wit, poise, intelligence, AND experience!! The computer judges me, and tosses me!! I never get to "present" myself. And since 90% of the employers are also using the online application process..I doubt that "weight issues" have any bearing on the current unemployment rate. I really don't know HOW they get away with the 50 lb lift requirement, it "in your face" discrimination against the physically handicapped! Which IS illegal!!

September 26 2012 at 2:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Denileriverafter

There is also AGE and HANDICAP discrimination! I have 26 years of retail/customer service experience. I was laid off in Nov., EVERY job I've applied for says, "must be able to lift 50 lbs"!! WHO can do that? Show me one person over 50, or anyone in a wheelchair who can do that? For that matter...how may young women and high school girls can do that?!! I always say I can, but really don't if I could. I'm 53, but have I EVER been able to lift 50 lbs? I don't know. I've been unemployed since Thanksgiving 2011, and I've made it past the online application process THREE times!! Two of which I was hired,but only part time. I NEED full time!! So, I KNOW it wasn't my weight. The computer doesn't know how much I weigh, but it DOES know how old I am!! It's age discrimination! I think my application gets rejected the second the computer sees my birthdate! I never get to meet the person face to face! I never get to dazzle them with my wit, poise, intelligence, AND experience!! The computer judges me, and tosses me!! I never get to "present" myself. And since 90% of the employers are also using the online application process..I doubt that "weight issues" have any bearing on the current unemployment rate. I really don't know HOW they get away with the 50 lb lift requirement, it "in your face" discrimination against the physically handicapped! Which IS illegal!!

September 26 2012 at 2:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
petpetdonna

Yes there is a connection.

September 26 2012 at 1:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Hi Sweetie

China is getting rich making all the excercise equipment for all the pudgy Americans. If 48 million unemployed Americans had to get off the couch and work for their food instead of waiting for their checks to hit the bank....perhaps a few waistlines would shrink ? I would love to see a bunch of potbellied folks out picking fruit and vegetables ...lol

September 25 2012 at 11:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Hi Sweetie's comment
taylorman710

Willard is that you?

September 25 2012 at 11:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Group

Totally unfair, but I'm sure it's true.
Harder to quantify , but probably not a lot of unemployed beautiful people.Like it or not people judge.

September 25 2012 at 10:22 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
surf7272

Most Americans are just pure lazy... we are a fat-ass nation!!

September 25 2012 at 9:12 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply

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