What makes a job stressful and harmful to your health

Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash

Some jobs are highly demanding, you work long hours and have to deal with a lot of pressure. Some jobs not so much. But having a highly demanding job is not necessarily what make you stressed out. So what is the relationship between stress and our jobs? This study made by the Indiana University throws some light over that matter.

The University realized a study with 2.363 people in their 60s for a period of 7 years and had some interesting insights. As it is imagined the people with high job demands had 15.4% more chance of dying during the 7-year-period than the people with low job demands. But there is a plot twist. For the people with a high control over their high job demand, the chance of death was 34% lower than for the people with a low demand job.

What I mean with high control is people who could make their own timetable, define their priorities and goals. The people with flexibility in work were the ones who thrived in a job with high demands and pressure. And it is important to note, they didn’t only thrive on work performance, but in their health and well being. When on the other hand, people with the same amount of pressure and demands were the most likely to die when in a low decision-making post.

“These findings suggest that stressful jobs have clear negative consequences for employee health when paired with low freedom in decision-making, while stressful jobs can actually be beneficial to employee health if also paired with freedom in decision-making.”

Erik Gonzalez-Mulé, the author of the study, told the Indiana University. Gonzalez also discussed that employers don’t need to change the expectations of their employees. But rather give them more flexibility. So yes, the study suggests that micromanaging can be harming to public health.

Also when addressing why people with less freedom tend to be less healthy, Gonzalez says that the people in those jobs also presented a higher body mass index. His insight is that people with less freedom might cope with the high-pressure environment by eating more or smoking. The leading causes of death of the people in the study were circulatory and respiratory diseases and cancer.

The study published in the Personnel Psychology magazine is thought by the authors to be the first one to relate job characteristics with a likelihood of death. You can read their whole study here.

That’s good news for all the freelancers and remote workers out there!