Study Finds Stress at Work is Just as Bad for Your Health as Second-Hand Smoke

Study Finds Stress at Work is Just as Bad for Your Health as Second-Hand Smoke
General Health

Being stressed out at work is just as bad as regularly being exposed to second-hand smoke, a new study by researchers at Harvard Business School and Stanford University finds.

Using data from 228 other studies that assessed the effects of 10 workplace stressors on employee physical and mental health, morbidity, and mortality, researchers concluded that workers who faced a great deal of stress on the job were 35% more likely to be diagnosed with an illness by a doctor. People who worked long hours were found to have a 20% increased chance of early death. Potential stressors included work-family conflict, job insecurity, high job demands, no health insurance, long work hours, and low organizational control.

But the fear of losing your job proved to have the biggest impact on health: the fear increased the odds of having poor health by 50%. [1]

The scientists say the effects of second-hand smoke and stress on the job have statistically-similar detrimental effects on health. [2]

Fortunately, many employers are taking the health risks posed by stress seriously and have implemented programs to help their employees make more positive lifestyle and health choices.

“Wellness programs are great at doing what they’re designed to do,” Joel Goh, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School, told the Boston Globe. “But they’re targeting [employee behavior], not targeting the cause of stress. There are two sides of the equation and right now we focus on one side. We’re trying to call attention to the other side [of the equation], which is the effect of managerial practices.”

Read 8 Functional Life Hacks to Reduce Stress

A 2014 CDC report breaks down just how stressed out Americans are at work: [3]

  • According to a Northwestern National Life survey, 40% of workers report that their job is “very or extremely stressful.”
  • A survey by the Families and Work Institute found that 26% of workers say they are “often or very often burned out or stressed by their work.”
  • A Yale University survey found that 29% of workers report they feel “quite a bit or extremely stressed at work.”

The good news is, there are a few things employees can do to maintain their sanity in the work place.

1. Don’t Let Your Boss Take Advantage of You

Joanna Lipari, a psychologist in Los Angeles, says it’s important to make sure your boss knows how much time you’re willing to put in at work, and if they want you to stay at the office longer, politely point out how much you actually accomplish during normal work hours. “Make it about being project-oriented, not time-oriented,” Lipari says.

2. Make Sure you Actually like Your Job

Life is too short to be miserable. According to Lipari, people who enjoy their work deal with stress much better than those who don’t. “People who believe in what they’re doing handle stress better than those who don’t,” she said. If you don’t love your work, it might be time to think about finding work that really does make you happy.

3. Keep a Journal

Mayo Clinic experts suggest writing down when you feel stressed. This can come in especially handy when a co-worker is causing problems and you need to work out a strategy to deal with him or her.

4. Ask Yourself: Is there a Real Problem or are you Just Being Paranoid?

If you’re overly-concerned with losing your job, you need to figure out if your job is really in jeopardy or if it’s “all in your head.” It might also help to ask co-workers for their perspectives.

[1] CNN

[2] UPI

[3] CDC