Can You Be Worked to Death?

We've all complained.  "This job is killing me."  "I'd rather die than go back to work one more day in that office."  "My boss will be the death of me."

But what if it's true? 

A new study has found that high-stress jobs, with very little or no control, can actually land you in the grave early.

According to newswise.com, previous academic research has found that having greater control over your job can help you manage work-related stress. But it's never suggested that it was a matter of life and death -- until now.
 
New research from the Indiana University Kelley School of Business finds that those in high-stress jobs with little control over their workflow die younger or are less healthy than those who have more flexibility and discretion in their jobs and are able to set their own goals as part of their employment.

The study of  2,363 Wisconsin residents in their 60s over a seven-year period found that for individuals in low-control jobs, high job demands are 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 are associated with a 34 percent decrease in the likelihood of death compared to low job demands.

 "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," says Erik Gonzalez-Mulé, assistant professor of organizational behavior and human resources at the Kelley School and the paper's lead author. "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."

Gonzalez-Mulé said the paper's results do not suggest that employers necessarily need to cut back on what is expected from employees. Rather, they demonstrate the value in restructuring some jobs to provide employees with more say about how the work gets done.

"You can avoid the negative health consequences if you allow them to set their own goals, set their own schedules, prioritize their decision-making and the like," he adds, also recommending that firms allow "employees to have a voice in the goal-setting process, so when you're telling someone what they're going to do … it's more of a two-way conversation."

Thus, micro-managing employees can have a public health impact. Among people in the study's sample, the researchers also found that the same set of causal relationships applied to their body mass index. People in high-demand jobs with low control were heavier than those in high-demand jobs with high control.
"When you don't have the necessary resources to deal with a demanding job, you do this other stuff," Gonzalez-Mulé says. "You might eat more, you might smoke, you might engage in some of these things to cope with it."

Twenty-six percent of deaths occurred in people in front-line service jobs, and 32 percent of deaths occurred in people with manufacturing jobs who also reported high job demands and low control.

"What we found is that those people that are in entry-level service jobs and construction jobs have pretty high death rates, more so than people in professional jobs and office positions," he says, of the study. "Interestingly, we found a really low rate of death among agricultural workers."

So unless you want to go work on a farm, it seems the way to deal with this kind of situation is to calmly look at your situation, acknowledge that it's a tough thing to deal with, and take a deep breath.  Or get a new job.






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