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Elizabeth Scott, M.S.

Could Your Job Be Hazardous To Your Health?

By October 24, 2008

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Many people feel stressed at work, and these days of job insecurity and the rising cost of living, those sentiments seem to be increasing for many. While economic factors can be very stressful (see my article on dealing with the stress of a financial crisis), several other job factors have been identified as stressful as well--to the point of potentially being hazardous to your health!

Recent research from the American Journal of Public Health analyzed the job stressors of 7,663 people over the course of 18 years, and found that certain factors in the workplace--especially unpredictability--were associated with increased heart attacks, or myocardial infarction. More specifically, researchers found that lack of control, job awareness, unexpected changes, job strain, and stress could lead to poor cardiac health.

“The risk of MI was about 1.8 times higher in a disorganized setting than in an organized setting,” said Ari Vaananen, lead study author, in a press release. “Clear organization of work tasks matters.”

Interestingly, most of these factors are also associated with job burnout, which carries with it other risk factors. What can workers do to keep themselves healthy? Vaananen said, “Employees may want to acquire new skills through education. They also may want to learn how the entire system works in the organization. Good knowledge of the organization and of their own clear roles at work may decrease negative emotions and chronic stress, and lower their risk for acute myocardial infarction.”

To combat the effects of chronic stress, it's also important to have some stress relief techniques that you learn well and use again and again, to reverse your stress response before it becomes a long-term condition and affects different areas of your health.

The following resources can help you overcome the risk factors discussed here, which are also related to job burnout. You'll also find some excellent options for stress relief, especially important if you're unable to change your work situation in the near future.

Resources from Elizabeth Scott:

Väänänen A, Koskinen A, Joensuu M, Kivimäki M, Vahtera J, Kouvonen A, Jäppinen P. Lack of Predictability at Work and Risk of Acute Myocardial Infarction: An 18-Year Prospective Study of Industrial Employees. American Journal of Public Health. October 15, 2008.

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October 27, 2008 at 1:24 pm
(1) Bryan Taylor says:

Elizabeth – another great article. I completely believe that organization is a big factor of stress related in the work place. This relates in any field or profession. Have a clear path, the right tools or a to do this will help with daily focus. I have employed 1000′s of people in my life as an employer and one thing that I always found was the relationship between disorganization and stress.
Best Regards,
Bryan Taylor

October 27, 2008 at 1:45 pm
(2) stress says:

Thanks for sharing, Brian. I bet the fact that you really paid attention to what worked and didn’t work for your employees made everyone more productive and less stressed!

October 27, 2008 at 4:21 pm
(3) Craig at Balanced Immune Health says:

Elizabeth – Training materials I’ve gone through say the #1 reason people leave a company is their supervisor. No matter the industry, the product, the state of the economy, if you cannot respect the boss, and the boss’s boss is no backstop, not much else matters.

I’m sure this leads to many other dynamics that are listed in all of the resource materials on job burnout: lack of organizational understanding, underuse of skills and talents, no clear and constant goals or vision, lack of trust, political tension, little or no communication, “yes” men and women only accepted, no healthy dissent or contrarian thinking encouraged, etc.

October 29, 2008 at 10:21 pm
(4) Timothy Aaron Whiston says:

It’s interesting to note that Monday morning is a time when hospitals actually expect an influx of heart attack patients. People would really rather die than go to work!

I remember a job I had at a retail tractor store. My blood pressure was up as soon as I got out of bed on a workday and I was stressed to the max for the next 10 or 12 hours while I was up. Wow it was AWFUL!

I highly recommend people finding a job they love. People act like this is such a wild statement like we just have to accept whatever work comes our way.

Nonsense! I finally got a clue in 2005… quit my job and never looked back.

Since then I’ve done a number of different things and made many, many times more money that any job would have paid me. Currently I work as a full-time writer and online marketer from my home and if I can do this so can anyone else.

Life is great, and there’s no reason to spend it working a job that you hate. Especially since, as Elizabeth has pointed out here, a crappy job can actually kill you.

October 30, 2008 at 2:22 pm
(5) anne says:

I agree completely. We need to understand that work takes up so much time and that if we could do what we love we would improve our lives. Jobs are just as important as good relationships–we don’t stay with people who are unhealthy for us, why should we stay with jobs that cause us so much stress?


December 1, 2010 at 8:39 pm
(6) Miriam says:

People suffering from job stress should develop an exit strategy i.e. what they are going to do to survive financially without a job that is killing them physically. This exit strategy can include beginning a part time home based business so that they don’t jump from the frying pan of a boss from hell to the fire of extreme financial stress.

October 10, 2012 at 8:44 pm
(7) cnacertificationtest.webstarts.com says:

Aw, this was an incredibly nice post. Taking a few minutes and actual effort to generate a superb article?

but what can I say? I put things off a whole lot and never manage to get nearly anything done.

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