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Prevalence of overweight and obesity among nurses in Scotland: A cross-sectional study using the Scottish Health Survey

Kyle, Richard G; Neall, Rosie A; Atherton, Iain


Richard G Kyle

Rosie A Neall



Increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity represents a global pandemic. As the largest occupational group in international healthcare systems nurses are at the forefront of health promotion to address this pandemic. However, nurses own health behaviours are known to influence the extent to which they engage in health promotion and the public's confidence in advice offered. Estimating the prevalence of overweight and obesity among nurses is therefore important. However, to date, prevalence estimates have been based on non-representative samples and internationally no studies have compared prevalence of overweight and obesity among nurses to other healthcare professionals using representative data.


To estimate overweight and obesity prevalence among nurses in Scotland, and compare to other healthcare professionals and those working in non-heath related occupations.


Cross-sectional study using a nationally representative sample of five aggregated annual rounds (2008-2012) of the Scottish Health Survey.



Participants: 13,483 adults aged 17 to 65 indicating they had worked in the past 4 weeks, classified in four occupational groups: nurses (n = 411), other healthcare professionals (n = 320), unqualified care staff (n = 685), and individuals employed in non-health related occupations (n = 12,067).

Main outcome measures: Prevalence of overweight and obesity defined as Body Mass Index ≥ 25.0.


Estimates of overweight and obesity prevalence in each occupational group were calculated with 95% confidence intervals (CI). A logistic regression model was then built to compare the odds of being overweight or obese with not being overweight or obese for nurses in comparison to the other occupational categories. Data were analysed using SAS 9.1.3.


69.1% (95% CI 64.6,73.6) of Scottish nurses were overweight or obese. Prevalence of overweight and obesity was higher in nurses than other healthcare professionals (51.3%, CI 45.8,56.7), unqualified care staff (68.5%, CI 65.0,72.0) and those in non-health related occupations (68.9%, CI 68.1,69.7). A logistic regression model adjusted for socio-demographic composition indicated that, compared to nurses, the odds of being overweight or obese was statistically significantly lower for other healthcare professionals (Odds Ratio [OR] 0.45, CI 0.33,0.61) and those in non-health related occupations (OR 0.78, CI 0.62,0.97).


Prevalence of overweight and obesity among Scottish nurses is worryingly high, and significantly higher than those in other healthcare professionals and non-health related occupations. High prevalence of overweight and obesity potentially harms nurses’ own health and hampers the effectiveness of nurses’ health promotion role. Interventions are therefore urgently required to address overweight and obesity among the Scottish nursing workforce.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 16, 2015
Online Publication Date Oct 27, 2015
Publication Date 2016-01
Deposit Date Nov 3, 2015
Publicly Available Date Oct 28, 2016
Journal International Journal of Nursing Studies
Print ISSN 0020-7489
Electronic ISSN 1873-491X
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 53
Pages 126-133
Keywords Health Promotion; Nurses; Obesity; Scotland; Health Surveys; Workforce;
Public URL
Publisher URL
Contract Date Nov 3, 2015


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