Experts from Edinburgh Napier University discovered seven out of ten nurses in Scotland were overweight or obese, compared with 55 per cent of their counterparts in the United States and 59 per cent of nurses across the UK.
Obesity is higher among nurses than in the wider Scottish population, where 68 per cent of men and 60 per cent of women are overweight or obese.
The prevalence might undermine patient confidence in nurses and prevent them from sharing public health messages around healthy eating, according to the study, published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies.
Lead author Dr Richard Kyle, a reader in the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Care at Edinburgh Napier University, said: “The level of overweight and obese people working in nursing is quite startling.
“It also raises concerns about the impact work is having on nurses’ health. We need to make sure we take better care of our nurses, which might help them to stay within the workforce.”
Union leaders said stressed-out staff had little time to eat or take regular exercise around their long shifts and called for health boards to ensure the wellbeing of their nursing staff. RCN Scotland associate director Norman Provan said: “Nurses know all about the impact of obesity on health – they see it day in, day out in their job.
“But if you’re run off your feet all day and worried about having the time to care for your patients, then you don’t have time to eat properly or take regular exercise at the end of a very long and stressful shift.”
He called on health boards to provide healthy food in canteens for staff on 12-hour or night shifts and to provide proper breaks so staff can eat proper meals.
The study used information from 13,000 people across the adult working population who took part in the Scottish Health Survey between 2008 and 2012.
Health secretary Shona Robison said: “Scotland’s nurses, like all staff groups across our health service, do a tremendous job to provide high quality care to their patients.”