Study: Drivers at higher risk of heart disease, obesity

Obese drivers are known to have higher risk of obstructive sleep apnea.

Transportation industry employees have a 52% incidence of obesity, higher than the national average of 38%, according to a new white paper released by Atlas Injury Prevention Solutions, an injury prevention firm. They’re also at a higher risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes, the study found.

The paper explores the results of a five-year survey, which examined health trends within the transportation industry among both drivers and non-drivers. Conducted from 2014-2018, the study included 5,953 drivers and 9,212 non-driver employees in the transportation industry. Grouped into the non-driver bucket are also family members of transportation industry employees who were covered by the company medical plan.

Of the 15,165 participants, 33% had at least three out of five conditions associated with metabolic syndrome (MetS). Those conditions include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels. MetS increases an individual’s risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. Drivers in the study were 80% more likely to be in the category than non-drivers.

What’s more, the study found that MetS is common among middle-aged drivers, not just older ones. Of drivers ages 40-59, 50% had MetS — the same percentage as their 60+-year-old counterparts. Comparatively, in the general U.S. population, 34% of individuals ages 40-59 have MetS conditions, as do 47% of those 60 and above. Male study participants, independent of age, had a high incidence of all MetS conditions except for waist circumference.

The study also found that drivers are 130% more likely to smoke than non-drivers in the transportation industry workforce. Out of the total study population, 16% reported tobacco use, though the paper contends that number is likely “understated.”