Obese women in Canada make less money than non-obese women

According to a study completed at Western University, obese women in the Canadian workforce earn less money than non-obese women.

Sisira Sarma, PhD, and his team from Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, analyzed data on adults, 18 to 53 years old, from the National Population Health Survey between 2000 and 2011.

Sarma’s team compared three outcomes in obese women and non-obese women – labour market participation, the hourly wage rate and personal annual income. Obese women are defined as women with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, and non-obese women, including those who are overweight, have a BMI of 18.5 to 29.9.

The research showed that obesity is associated with a reduced hourly wage rate and annual income among women by approximately four per cent and 4.5 per cent, respectively. From 2010 to 2011, obese women earned an average of $18.90 an hour or $37,972.26 annually. In comparison, non-obese women earned on average $22 an hour or $42,492.67 annually. There was no significant difference in labour market participation.

Sarma believes that there may be a few different reasons for the difference in income. “Women who are obese may be discriminated against due to a perception by some employers that they may be less productive,” said Sarma. “Employers may offer jobs at a less competitive rate, or women who are obese settle for jobs with a lower income. However, having a lower income may be the cause of obesity.”

The data also reveals differences between obese and non-obese women in terms of education level and health indicators.

In 2010 and 2011, 10.5 per cent of obese women reported having less than a high school education, compared with 5.73 per cent of non-obese women.

During the same period, 47.06 per cent of obese woman had a post-secondary education compared with 58.97 per cent of non-obese women.

Obese women were significantly less likely to classify their health as excellent compared with non-obese women – 9.47 per cent and 23.52 per cent respectively.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tristan Joseph, Media Relations Officer, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Western University, t. 519.661.2111 ext. 80387, c. 519.777.1573, tristan.joseph@schulich.uwo.ca


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The Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western University is one of Canada’s preeminent medical and dental schools. Established in 1881, it was one of the founding schools of Western University and is known for being the birthplace of family medicine in Canada. For more than 130 years, the School has demonstrated a commitment to academic excellence and a passion for scientific discovery.

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