Hate Your Job? It Will Affect Your Health, In Your 40's

We've all had this job.  Nothing you do is ever right, the boss berates you if you're five minutes late (your kid's bus never came), and in meetings, he calls on everyone but you.

I've been there.  Even broke out in a rash on vacation, thinking of having to go back.

But now a new study says it can be worse than that.  Lousy jobs hurt your health by the time you're in your 40's.

Job satisfaction in your late 20s and 30s has a link to overall health in your early 40s, according to a new nationwide study. And while job satisfaction has some impact on physical health, its effect was particularly strong for mental health, researchers have found.

Not surprisingly, those less than happy with their work early in their careers said they were more depressed and worried and had more trouble sleeping. And the direction of your job satisfaction – whether it is getting better or worse in your early career – has an influence on your later health, the study showed.

I had some pretty awful bosses in my early career and I developed cancer, turning 50.   Can that be blamed on those superiors?  Probably not. 

“We found that there is a cumulative effect of job satisfaction on health that appears as early as your 40s,” says Jonathan Dirlam, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in sociology at The Ohio State University.

Dirlam conducted the study with Hui Zheng, associate professor of sociology at Ohio State. Zheng says the results show the importance that early jobs have on people’s lives.  “You don’t have to be near the end of your career to see the health impact of job satisfaction, particularly on your mental health,” Zheng says.

Well, duh.

But studies have also shown that mental health affects our physical health.

Participants in the study with low job satisfaction were also more likely to have been diagnosed with emotional problems and scored lower on a test of overall mental health.

Those whose job satisfaction started out higher but declined through their early career were more likely than those with consistently high satisfaction to have frequent trouble sleeping and excessive worry, and had lower scores for overall mental health. But they didn’t see an impact on depression scores or their probability of being diagnosed with emotional problems.

Those whose scores went up through the early career years did not see any comparative health problems.
The physical health of those who were unhappy with their jobs wasn’t impacted as much as mental health. Those who were in the low satisfaction group and those who were trending downwards reported poorer overall health and more problems like back pain and frequent colds compared to the high satisfaction group.

But they weren’t different in physical functioning and in doctor-diagnosed health problems such as diabetes and cancer.

Here's the good news.  People whose job satisfaction started low but got better over the course of their early career didn’t have the health problems associated with consistently low or declining satisfaction.


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