When faced with long hours at work, women snack more on high-fat, high-sugar treats, consume more caffeinated drinks and exercise less, finds a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology (Vol. 92, No. 6).
But for men, it wasn't the length of the workday-or even the specific characteristics of their jobs-but their moods that triggered snacking on junk food, exercising less, and if they were smokers, smoking more.
Those conclusions were drawn from a review of daily questionnaires filled out by 422 municipal employees in northern England who recorded their work-related stress and snacking, smoking and drinking behavior over four weeks. Through the study, Fiona Jones, PhD, a senior lecturer in health and occupational psychology at the University of Leeds, and her colleagues examined how the job-strain model would play out when compared with a participant's daily health-related behaviors. The model holds that high-control, low-demand jobs are better for a person's health, and that low-control, high-demand jobs are worse.
Since women are still mainly responsible for the daily tasks of meal preparation and caring for children within families, Jones speculated that longer work hours might leave them especially harried to get everything done, leaving less time for self-care.
Based on the results, employers should make more opportunities for employees to exercise at work and provide healthier snacks in vending machines, Jones says.
To compensate when faced with longer days, women should bring healthier snacks to work and try to fit in exercise, Jones says.
"Easier said then done, isn't it?" she says.