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Traveler's Alert: Business Travel Linked to Obesity and Poor Health

Study finds that self rated health, body mass index, and cholesterol levels worsen with heavy travel

Road warriors who travel for business two weeks or more a month have higher body mass index, higher rates of obesity and poorer self-rated health than those who travel less often, according to researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health.

The study, conducted by Andrew G. Rundle, DrPH and Catherine A. Richards, MPH, drew data from medical records of more than 13,000 employees in a corporate wellness program provided by EHE International. Nearly 80% of employees traveled at least one night a month and 1% traveled more than 20 nights a month. Findings are online in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Overall, the researchers found that business people who traveled the most (20 or more days a month) have poorer health on a number of measures compared with those who travel between 1 and 6 days a month. For example, extensive travelers:

  • Had a mean Body Mass Index (BMI) of 27.5 kg/m2 versus 26.1 for light travelers
  • Had a mean HDL level of 53.3 mg/DLversus 56.1 for light travelers
  • Had a mean Diastolic pressure of 76.2 mmHG versus 74.6 for light travelers
  • Were 260% more likely to rate their health as fair to poor compared to light travelers

Employees who did not travel at all also scored poorly on health measures. For example, non-travelers were about 60% more likely than light travelers to rate their health as fair to poor and had a mean body mass index of 26.7 kg/m2. According to the authors, poor health among non-travelers may reflect a "healthy worker effect," with employees who have health problems being less likely to travel.

"Consistently we found that health outcomes were worse for those not traveling and those traveling the most," said C