It might sound dramatic, but your work is very tied to your health. Jobs that are well-designed and allow for greater fulfillment make us happier and healthier. While we have talked before about the health effects of jobs, there is an ultimate outcome we haven’t discussed as much. Death is not a happy topic. But, the things you do each day contribute to your longevity. Work is such a huge part of our lives, it’s not surprising that it might impact how long we live. Learn more about how to live a full and happy life, as a result of the job you do!
Your Work is Related to Your Health
Because we work so much, the features of our jobs are really important for our health. When your body faces stressors, you have to change your baseline to adapt. This means that if your job is very stressful, your body actually changes its physiology in order to be able to tackle that stress each day. This can result in higher stress hormones. It can also result in higher levels of burnout. It can even increase your body mass. These changes happen slowly over time as your body recognizes that the stressors are ongoing and not temporary.
In other words, your body wants to be able to survive each day. But, it knows that it can’t do that unless it adjusts to the environment you’re in. If your work environment is stressful, your body needs a higher level of stress hormones in order to tackle those challenges. But, this can put a lot of wear and tear on your body over time. The goal is to operate in a more relaxed, natural state as a default. But, a stressful job can shift the way your body functions on a regular basis. This can cause problems down the line.
Your Health is Related to Your Mortality
Of course, the healthier you are, on average, the longer you’ll live. While this is common sense, we don’t often think about the fact that we are mortal or that we are contributing to long-term health when we face day-to-day challenges. Generally, people don’t like to think about their own death and will try to distract themselves from death-related thoughts. When people do face thoughts about their own death, they try to shift their focus to thinking about how they are positive contributors to the world. They might also think about how they are healthy or living well compared to cultural standards.
However, it’s important to recognize that there are things that we can do to prolong our lives. When our bodies adjust their baseline to accommodate stressors, these changes add up. This is why increased proximal stressors have been linked to overall mortality rates over time. They are also related to earlier cognitive and physical decline, as well as cardiovascular events (like heart attacks). So, while it may not feel this way, your stressful job may end up being a matter of life and death. The good news is that there are things you can do to make this outcome less likely!
How to Avoid Death by Work
Overall, high job demands can lead to poorer physical and mental health, which then increase your likelihood of dying. However, when you have high levels of job control, these negative effects go away. We have talked about job control previously. Basically, you have more control over your job when you’re able to help make decisions at work. Control also increases when you are able to decide what you want to work on. Finally, control is increased when you can decide how you want to get work done.
This means that if you have a micro-managing boss, having a conversation about your need for greater autonomy might be more important than you think. In fact, research has found that in highly demanding jobs, where you have no control, your odds of dying go up by more than 15%. But, in jobs that have a lot of demands, and also a lot of control, your odds of living go up by 34%.
So, the goal is really to have a job that you find challenging, but that you also have a lot of control over. If you’re a leader, think about how much work you’re putting on your employees’ plates. Making a lot of demands? Then you need to also give employees some control. If you’re not willing or able to provide more control, you have to decrease demands. It sounds simple, but the impact is huge. Let’s all do our part to support happy and healthy lives for employees everywhere.