Your Job Is Killing You (Literally)

There are jobs you’d expect to have a high risk of death like firefighting, military, police work, and general construction.

(See: Canada’s Most Dangerous Jobs.)

But did you ever consider that your job could be killing you too?

Particularly, positions in the service industry have been found to have an increased risk of death, according to an Indiana University School of Business study. In their research, scientists discovered that employees in high-stress positions with little control were more likely to die young.

Researchers surveyed 2,363 workers over a seven year period and found that 26 percent of deaths occurred in people with service jobs.

“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,” said Erik Gonzalez-Mulé, assistant professor and lead author of the study.

A second study performed at Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China echoed these results on a larger scale.

This study examined 138,782 participants who were followed for three to 17 years. Jobs were divided into four different groups based on the amount of control the workers had, how hard they worked, or the psychological demands of the job.

Low stress jobs are considered low demand, high control such as scientists or architects. High stress jobs are high demand, low control such as service industry jobs.

Passive jobs are low demand, low control which include janitors, miners and other manual laborers. Active jobs are high demand, high control including doctors, engineers, and teachers.

The results found were that those with high stress jobs had a greater risk of stroke. Researchers found that 4.4% of the stroke risk was due to high stress jobs.

Again, service industry workers such as waitresses and nursing aides were found to be 22 percent more likely to have a stroke than those with low stress jobs.

Workers in low-control, high demand jobs showed a 15.4 percent increase in the likelihood of death compared with those in low demand jobs. Those with high control at work had a 34 percent decrease in the likelihood of death compared with those in low demand jobs.

Additionally, the study found that workers in high demand jobs had a higher body mass index (BMI) than employees who have more decision-making power at their job—one reason being that eating acts as a coping mechanism for dealing with the stress of the job.

The study appeared online in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

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