Can Job Strain Kill You? (9/28/12)
Can Job Strain Increase the Risk of Death?
According to a recent pan-European study published in the Lancet, the answer is yes. Pooling 13 studies from 1986-2006, the average increase in heart disease was about 25%. However, in published, individual studies, the rate was twice as high.
What Is Job Strain?
A feeling of stress and difficulty at work.
What Are the Main Components of Job Strain?
Not having a feeling of control or autonomy at work. Another secondary factor increasing job strain is the sense that allotted work cannot be finished within the designated time. Job strain increases as jobs become less skilled – the more technical expertise, the smaller the overall job strain noted.
Other recent studies of job strain have demonstrated highly unhealthy results for civil servants who were caught “in the middle” of management decisions. Salaried jobs with the ability to take work home also tended to possess a lot of job strain.
Does This Term Include Job Insecurity?
No. And as Professor Bo Netterstrom noted in an interview with the BBC, job insecurity is probably a larger problem for people’s health. Plus this study only looked at work before the recent worldwide recession.
Combining job strain with job insecurity makes all health results worse.
What’s Been Happening with Job Strain in the United States?
Long term prospective studies are rarer in the U.S. What numbers there are look worse. These studies were also done before the recent “severe recession.” Many workers have taken on far greater job demands in the last five years. Recent reports are that anxiety and depression have skyrocketed in the last four years, especially among working women.
What Can People Do to Control Job Strain?
In a tough economy, it gets tougher to control the strains on one’s work. The worldwide financial meltdown, globalization, age discrimination, the near demise of organized labor, single parent families, the housing crisis and rising health care costs have all contributed to work stress.
The result – people have to try to take control more than ever over their response to their daily work.
Fortunately there’s a bunch of actions people can take to decrease work stress. They include:
1. Increased physical activity. All voluntary muscle movement constitutes exercise. The more you walk around a workplace and interface one and one with colleagues, the better off you’ll tend to be. When people get around and converse on the job they report less job stress.
Overall, exercise – or the lack of it – has a much bigger effect on mortality than job strain does. Sitting more than six hours a day markedly increases mortality, especially in women.
For jobs that keep people tethered to desks, periodic standing, stand-up desks, and trips through hallway corridors or to the restroom can help quell the tense feelings of the work day. Quick 30 second bouts of yoga, tai ji or stretching can also help. Moving in one form or another once an hour – more if you can – is highly recommended.
2. Getting out in nature. If people can walk 5 minutes in a natural setting overall mood rises – particularly when people feel stressed or depressed.
3. Animals. Several reports argue pets on the job can decrease work stress. How the animals feel about the attention will vary, but generally they’re pretty happy have lots of humans play with them.
4. Rest relaxation techniques. Many work. “The Power of Rest” includes dozens, and most of these can be accomplished within 30-60 seconds. Some of the quickest responses occur with:
A. Paradoxical relaxation – learning to focus totally on one muscle group at a time can bring a state of relaxed concentration to the entire the body.
B. Spiritual rest techniques – imagining that you are going back and forth in time or space can relax people surprisingly quickly.
C. Breathing. Many different techniques of focused breathing can be applied – even when people are heavily engaged in the tasks at hand. Some have the advantage of also improving posture, which in the age of cell phones and glaring computer monitors has become much bigger worry with the advent of “tech neck”. Better posture and easier breathing usually makes people feel more alert – and more able to tackle the job.
Job strains of all kinds are increasing. The popular way of dealing with them has been more drugs. Many natural, non-pharmacological methods exist – with multiple added benefits for overall health.
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