Free Press Journal

Work stress can kill you young


Work stress can kill you young

New Delhi: Previous academic research has found that having greater control over your job can help you manage work related stress. But it’s never suggested that it was a matter of life and death- until now.

New research from the Indiana University Kelley School of Business finds that those in high-stress jobs with little control over their workflow die younger or are less healthy than those who have more flexibility and discretion in their jobs and are able to set their own goals as part of their employment.

Using a longitudinal sample of 2,363 Wisconsin residents in their 60s over a seven-year period, they found that for individuals in lowcontrol jobs, high job demands are associated with a 15.4 percent increase in the likelihood of death, compared to low job demands.

For those in high-control jobs, high job demands are associated with a 34 percent decrease in the likelihood of death compared to low job demands.

“We explored job demands, or the amount of work, time pressure and concentration demands of a job, and job control, or the amount of discretion one has over making decisions at work, as joint predictors of death,” said Erik Gonzalez Mulé, assistant professor of organizational behaviour and human resources at the Kelley School and the paper’s lead author.

“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 employeehealth if also paired with freedom in decision-making.”

The paper, “Worked to Death: The Relationships of Job Demands and Job Control With Mortality,” has been accepted for publication in the journal Personnel Psychology. His co-author is Bethany Cockburn, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business.

The paper provides more reasons for those in stressful, dead-end jobs to refresh their resumes and look for other employment.

Twenty-six percent of deaths occurred in people in frontline service jobs, and 32 percent of deaths occurred in people with manufacturing jobs who also reported high job demands and low control.

“What we found is that those people that are in entry-level service jobs and construction jobs have pretty high death rates, more so than people in professional jobs and office positions,” he said.

Gonzalez-Mulé said the new study highlights the benefits of job crafting, a relatively new process that enables employees to mould and redesign their job to make it more meaningful. Other research suggests that workers who engage in job crafting are happier and are more productive than co workers who don’t.

“In some settings, it will be difficult to do this. For a construction worker, it’s going to really hard to allow them autonomy; there’s usually just one right way to do things. In jobs like that, it’s more about just warning the employee of the risks that are here,” he said.