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Nurs Outlook. 2012 Sep-Oct;60(5):e23-31. doi: 10.1016/j.outlook.2012.04.005. Epub 2012 Jul 6.

Nurses' self-care behaviors related to weight and stress.

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University of Maryland School of Nursing, 655 W. Lombard St., Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.



Considerable research on preventive health care behaviors has been conducted in different segments of the population. Although nurses are the largest group of direct health care providers (3 million), little is known about their preventive health care behaviors. As the average age of nurses working in the United States (US) increases (mean age 47 years), maintaining their health to ensure they can continue to provide optimal health care to others becomes a greater priority.


This descriptive online study examined registered nurses' dietary and exercise practices, weight status, stress levels, and preferred preventive health strategies using a sample of nurses recruited from a community-based, urban teaching hospital (n = 183; mean age 47 ± 11.3 years).


The majority of participants (72.2%, n = 122) reported a lack of exercise, and more than half (53.8%, n = 91) had an irregular meal pattern. The average body mass index (BMI) was 28.3 ± 6.8, and 59.2% (n = 100) were either overweight (n = 47) or obese (n = 53). BMI had a significant inverse relationship with having a regular meal schedule and the amount of time spent exercising. Participants who reported greater stress had more irregular meal schedules. The most frequently used stress-release method was eating (n = 32), followed by exercise (n = 31).


Nurses are fully aware of measures that should be taken for healthy living. Their knowledge, however, has not been well translated into their own self-care. As nursing shortages loom, maintaining the health of the aging nursing workforce is essential to retention. Further research is needed to identify factors that may motivate nurses to better care for themselves and measures that can be implemented by employers to initiate and sustain these preventive health care behaviors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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