If you’re like many professionals, your full-time job takes up most of your waking hours. But did you ever stop to think about how your career is affecting your overall health? Certain work-related habits and behaviors could be taking their toll on your physical, mental and emotional well-being. Here are 10 ways your work influences your health.
Americans have become known for their workaholic tendencies. Numerous studies and statistics have shown that U.S. workers take less vacation time, retire later and put in longer hours than workers in most other countries in the developed world. “All work and no play” might make you seem like a star employee on the surface, but in the long run, it will only hurt you.
Researchers at Kansas State University found that employees who worked more than 50 hours per week were more likely to have reduced physical and mental well-being. These workers tended to skip meals because they were too busy working, and had higher incidences of self-reported depression. Another study found that people who worked at least 10 hours a day had a 60 percent higher risk of heart-related problems, such as death due to heart disease or a nonfatal heart attack, than those who didn’t work overtime.
Lack of Movement
Credit: TijanaM/Shutterstock Whether your workday is spent sitting, standing or both, a job that requires little or no physical movement could contribute to a variety of health problems. A sedentary lifestyle is most commonly associated with increased risks of conditions like heart disease and diabetes, but it can — and often does — cause physical pain, too.
The American Osteopathic Association found that two-thirds of office employees suffered from physical pain on the job during a six-month period, primarily due to desk work. Hunching over your desk, staring at a computer monitor, and using a mouse and keyboard for prolonged periods all strain your muscles and eyes, and were the main culprits of employee pain. Another study published in the journal Human Factors found that standing isn’t much better — employees who spend most of their workday upright suffer from increased fatigue, leg cramps and backaches.
Many workers look forward to the day they can retire, but you might want to think twice before ending your career too soon. A study by a group of Austrian researchers found that, for men in particular, retiring early increased their risk of dying before age 67. The researchers estimated that additional year of early retirement cuts about two months off a retiree’s life.
The study noted that retired individuals often pick up unhealthy habits, including smoking, drinking, unhealthy eating and infrequent exercise. Early retirees may engage in these habits sooner, which contribute to an increased risk of premature death, the study suggested.
Staying at a Job You Hate
Credit: TijanaM/Shutterstock That job you hate might be driving you crazy, but the side effects can extend far beyond your mental and emotional well-being. Research published in the journal Human Relations found that employees who stayed at organizations out of either obligation or a perceived lack of other job options were more likely than other employees to experience physical health problems, including symptoms of exhaustion, stress and burnout.
One of the study’s authors speculated that, in the absence of an emotional bond with the organization, a worker’s commitment is based on obligation. This feeling of indebtedness and a loss of autonomy are emotionally draining over time, the researcher said.
Beyond the financial impact of being jobless, unemployment significantly affects a person’s emotional well-being. Research presented during a congressional briefing on the psychological benefits of employment and the impact of joblessness revealed that long-term unemployment can trigger mental health issues.
The research showed that the people in the study who were unemployed for more than 25 weeks in the past year were more likely than their employed counterparts to experience mental health issues for the first time. The researchers attributed their findings to the sense of purpose that work provides. Long-term unemployment makes people feel like they’ve lost control of their capacity to earn a living and take care of their families, which makes them worry about their futures.
Credit: TijanaM/Shutterstock No one says you have to be friends with your co-workers, but if you are, it could be better for your health. According to a LinkedIn study, many employees feel that workplace friendships make them happy, keep them motivated and increase their productivity.
On the flip side, the more negative aspects of the workplace social environment can lead to physical and mental health issues. The emotional effects of bullying in the office are obvious, but research published in Management Communication Quarterly found that victims of workplace bullying suffer in silence for fear of being labeled as crybabies or whiners.