Precarious Employment as a Determinant of Overweight and Cardiometabolic Risk

Study at a Glance

Reducing obesity disparities could greatly reduce health disparities by race/ethnicity for the leading cause of death in the U.S., cardiovascular disease. Therefore, it is critical to understand the systemic causes of disparities in obesity prevalence between racial/ethnic minority adults and children, compared to their white counterparts.

Precarious work, which is often characterized by low wages, limited fringe benefits, shorter tenure, and irregular hours, making employment risky and stressful for the worker, is disproportionately represented among racial/ethnic minorities. Precarious employment may increase body mass index through multiple mechanisms, including a biological stress response.

Determining the extent to which precarious employment is a determinant of overweight and cardiometabolic risk is vitally important for mitigating disparities in chronic disease risk and informing structural approaches for improving population health in the U.S.

Study Aims

This study aims to provide novel insights into the impacts of precarious employment on overweight and cardiometabolic risk, and to investigate the pathways of these relationships using secondary data, to determine:

  1. The extent to which precarious employment affects overweight/obesity risk among adults and children in the U.S. and examine whether any association varies by race/ethnicity;
  2. Whether biological stress mediates the association between precarious employment and overweight/obesity risk among adults;
  3. Whether precarious employment is associated with cardiometabolic risk biomarkers among adults and examine whether any association varies by race/ethnicity.

Employment precariousness is modifiable through policy-level changes, making this a critical topic for study.

Research Team

Funding: NIH, NIMHD R00 MD012807