Israeli Scientists: Obesity Leads to Depression, Burnout

February 23, 2012  

A new study by Israeli scientists has found that obesity can lead to depression and greater burnout at work.

Dr. Sharon Toker at Tel Aviv University’s Recanati Faculty of Management and Dr. Michal Biron of the University of Haifa say employers should encourage their workers to maintain their physical fitness.

The study, originally designed to examine the relationship between depression and burnout, assessed the personal, occupational and psychological states of 1,632 healthy Israeli workers in the private and public sectors.

Findings indicated an increase in depression predicted an increase in job burnout over time, and vice versa. But researchers for the first time also looked at participants’ level of physical activity, and discovered that depression and burnout were highest among those that who were the least active.

The findings, recently published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, showed that the best benefits were achieved among those who exercise four hours per week. Those who did were approximately half as likely to experience deterioration in their mental state as those who did no physical activity.

Inspiring employees to be physically active, the researchers say, reduces health costs and absenteeism, and increases productivity in the workplace.

Though depression and burnout are connected, they are not the same, says Toker. Depression is a clinical mood disorder, and burnout is defined by physical, cognitive and emotional exhaustion. But both contribute to a “spiral of loss” where the loss of one resource, such as a job, could have a domino effect and lead to the loss of others, such as a home or a marriage.

Bottom line: the more physically active, the healthier one is likely to be. But as always, check with your doctor before starting any exercise regimen.

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