Men are more likely than women to indulge in unhealthy eating and forget about exercise when they feel low at work. They are also likely to smoke more than usual.
These are the findings of Fiona Jones, Daryl O'Connor and Mark Conner of the University of Leeds who will present their research today, Thursday 11 January 2007, at the British Psychological Society's Division of Occupational Psychology Annual Conference being held at the Bristol Marriott Hotel City Centre.
The study followed 422 employees over a period of 4 weeks, during which time they filled in daily measures of their moods, working hours, snacking, physical exercise, smoking, drinking and caffeine consumption. In addition they completed questionnaires about the nature of their work.
Compared to men, there were fewer links between mood and health behaviour in women although negative moods were linked to increased drinking and more smoking in female smokers. However, women seemed to respond to both negative and positive moods by increased drinking. Men on the other hand were more likely to turn to alcohol only when they were feeling positive. Across most health behaviours, longer work hours had more of a negative impact on health behaviour for women.
Fiona Jones suggests that: "Ultimately, there are likely to be negative implications for people's health and productivity if they respond to work stressors and longer work hours by smoking more or eating unhealthy snacks. It may be useful for employers to provide more support for healthy behaviours in high pressure work environments." Possible supports she suggests include easy availability of healthy rather than unhealthy snacks.