Health & Wellbeing
Surprising Super Bowl Health Risks and How to Avoid Them in Your Office
Michael Norris
Michael Norris

This Sunday, countless Americans will attend Super Bowl parties — whether they’re football fans or not. Bowl parties are notoriously unhealthy because they feature high-fat, high-calorie foods. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) calls Super Bowl Sunday the second biggest food day in the U.S., behind Thanksgiving. But there are other health risks that come from Super Bowl parties, too.

Aside from packing on a few extra pounds, here are a few other things you may not have realized you can pick up at a Super Bowl party:

The flu.

A new study published in the American Journal of Health Economics, found that the death rate from flu is higher in cities whose football teams play in the Super Bowl. The cause, researchers believe, is that there are likely to be more people attending Super Bowl parties in those cities. Think about it: Bowl parties occur at the height of flu season and bring people together to sit close to one another around a television. For the flu virus, which is transmitted in droplets of saliva when people sneeze, cough or talk, this is an ideal breeding ground.

Whether coworkers are watching the Bowl together or talking about it over coffee on Monday morning, there’s an increased risk of transmission — and of an office outbreak. Before the parties, it may be a good idea to make your employees aware of this risk of flu. Encourage those who haven’t had a flu shot or that aren’t feeling well to skip the party this year and watch the Bowl at home.

Junk food cravings.

The poor food choices of Super Bowl Sunday could last longer than you think. There’s evidence that Super Bowl ads — many of which promote sodas and junk food — could be bad for our health. These ads work on a subconscious level. Research shows they really can make you hungry, and they can change your opinion of the food being advertised.

“Studies show [that] if you see an ad for a product and try it for the first time, you like it more than if you didn’t see the ad,” Jennifer Harris, Ph.D., of Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, told CNN in 2011. “It really is shaping our preferences as well as triggering us to eat more.” Consider introducing some healthy snacks to the office next week to curb residual cravings and head off unhealthy habits.


We all know it’s a bummer if your team loses, and there’s research to show the sadness and stress can even affect your health. A 2011 study in the journal Clinical Cardiology found that deaths related to heart disease increased on Super Bowl Sunday among those over 65 in the losing team’s city. These are usually attributed to increased stress on those days.

The extra stress could be apparent in the office on Monday, too. We’ve previously discussed strategies to combat stress in the workplace that you can revisit next week, including mindfulness, getting enough sleep and unplugging, and flexibility at work.

In addition, February is the CDC’s Heart Month, so it’s a great time to raise awareness about the importance of preventing cardiovascular disease. We’ll have more on that topic in an upcoming blog post.  For now, if you’d like to learn more about workplace health, please visit


Michael Norris is CEO of Healthcare for Sodexo North America.  With responsibility for $3.2 billion in annual revenues and 33,000 employees, Mr. Norris is committed to increasing knowledge and awareness on how individuals, organizations and communities can improve their health and well-being. 

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