Massachusetts – A study by Stanford University and the Harvard Business School suggests that people exposed to high levels of work stress may have the same health issues as people exposed to secondhand smoke.

The U.S is a world leader in health spending per capita, but rare enough, according to a series of measures (life expectancy at birth, cancer incidence, etc.) it is not a leader in health outcomes. The study takes the time to conclude that one of the main factors of the highly-expensive poor results is the role of stressors in the workplace that affect employee health and mortality.

“When you think about how much time individuals typically spend at work, it’s not that surprising,” Joel Goh, study co-author and an assistant professor of business administration at Harvard Business School said.

Credit: OnTheRoadToHealing
Credit: OnTheRoadToHealing

The paper based itself in a model following the level of exposure to ten workplace stressors: unemployment, lack of health insurance, exposure to shift work, long working hours, job insecurity, work-family conflict, low job control, high job demands, low social support at work, and low organizational justice.  The health consequences of these workplace stressors are evident in a variety of epidemiological evidence, but stress has another direct effect on health as it induces unhealthy life choices and behaviors, from alcohol abuse to smoking, and from drug consumption to suicide.

Not the only victims

Along the research, assistant professor of business administration Joel Goh and his colleagues found that is not only about work stress but a highly demanding job worker is 35 percent more likely to suffer from either a physical or a mental condition. Long work hours increased the risk of early death by nearly 20 percent and fears about losing your job increased the odds of adverse health by about 50 percent.

To show another perspective, Goh’s model estimate that workplace-associated mortality is comparable to the fourth cerebrovascular diseases and fifth accidents largest cause of death in the U.S. back in 2009 and exceeds the number of deaths from diabetes, Alzheimer’s, or influenza.

As people spend more and more time in their jobs, it is seen how work environments are associated with profound effects on mental and physical well-being and consequential effects in excess deaths and health care costs

Source: Harvard Business School