High Stress Job? Warning: You Might Die Prematurely!

New research confirms a link between early death and highly demanding jobs.

Posted Jan 14, 2017

This new study from Indiana University caught my eye, because it's not only a warning to people in demanding career positions, but I've seen first-hand the debilitating effects such environments can have upon people's lives. To explain, this study began with the fact that people who are in high-stress jobs, typically have little control over their work. That includes its pace, the deadlines and the consequences of decisions and completion of projects. But then, the study found that workers in these situations are more likely to die younger or have poorer health. compared with people who have more power and decision making autonomy.

In my work with people in these kinds of positions, I've frequently seen the impact of lack of control or autonomy upon their emotional wellbeing. And that has a spin-off effect upon their relationships, as well. In only a few cases, though, have I witnessed death that looked suspiciously related to the person's work environment.

But that link has now been found by the new research. First, this news release from the Kelley School of Business underscored what I pointed out above: That previous studies have confirmed that having greater control over your work can help you manage work-related stress. However, the report explained, research hasn't found that it was a matter of life and death—until now.

The findings were published in Personnel Psychology, based on a longitudinal sample of 2,363 Wisconsin residents in their 60s over a seven year period. The researchers found that for individuals in low-control jobs, high job demands were associated with a 15.4 percent increase in the likelihood of death, compared to low job demands. For those in high-control jobs, high job demands were associated with a 34 percent decrease in the likelihood of death compared to low job demands.

According to lead author Erik Gonzalez-Mulé, “We explored job demands, or the amount of work, time pressure and concentration demands of a job, and job control, or the amount of discretion one has over making decisions at work, as joint predictors of death. These findings suggest that stressful jobs have clear negative consequences for employee health when paired with low freedom in decision-making, while stressful jobs can actually be beneficial to employee health if also paired with freedom in decision-making.”

And, he added, “When you don’t have the necessary resources to deal with a demanding job, you…might eat more, you might smoke, you might engage in some of these things to cope with it.”

In my experience, escaping through consuming things in an effort to numb yourself only adds to declining health and puts you on a path to premature death. Sadly, many feel trapped and resign themselves to a debilitating work environment, whether from fear or unconscious needs and conflicts. And that keep them frozen on that downward spiral.

dlabier@CenterProgressive.org

Blog: Progressive Impact

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© 2017 Douglas LaBier