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Study shows men more likely to gain weight after job loss

Researchers say social stigmas may be a factor

Researchers at the University of Michigan say people who lose their jobs late in their careers are at risk of gaining weight.

The study, which followed about 20,000 people over the age of 50 every two years, gathered information about various topics, including weight issues and social factors relating to job loss.

Researchers say the study showed men who lost their jobs before retirement were more likely to gain weight than women, and those individuals had genes that predisposed them to weight gain.

The information was taken from a longitudinal U-M Health and Retirement Study, which tracked various observations on 2,150 full time and part time workers who were not self-employed, and lost their jobs due to business closures.

The study did not include those who lost their jobs due to layoffs or firings.

Researchers came to a single number using body mass index, and other genetic data, to assess each individual’s genetic risk for weight gain.

"The research suggests that a significant social stressor like job loss may trigger or amplify genetic risk for weight gain in otherwise healthy or normal weight populations," said lead author Lauren Schmitz, a researcher at the Population Studies Center and Survey Research Center at the U-M institute for Social Research.

Schmitz and Dalton Conley, a sociology professor at Princeton University say even though some people may be genetically at risk for weight gain, it doesn’t mean that they will all become overweight.

The study showed men aged 50-60 years, who lost their jobs, were at high risk for weight gain and on average, gained about 10 percent more weight than men who were not displaced from their jobs.

The men in the group had similar genetic risks for weight gain.

Schmitz thinks men may feel more stress than women from the loss of a job due to social stigmas, and that may be a factor in the gender differences in the study.

The research study also showed individuals who were not married or partnered at the time of the job displacement were more likely to gain weight, regardless of their weight category before the job loss.

"Spouses often provide financial and emotional support, mitigating strain from a job loss," Conley said.

Researchers say it’s important to understand the underlying cardiovascular risks of weight gain for older individuals in the workforce.