Your Job, Your Health

Your Job, Your Health
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How many times have you thought, "This job is going to kill me"? The truth is, you may have been right. For better or worse, a person's job plays a critical role in his or her mental and physical health. The good news is that there are some things about work that are good for you, too.

From increased risks of heart disease to longer life spans, the numerous drawbacks or benefits to health that come with working have been revealed by various studies across the globe.

Here are eight ways your job, including your decision to hold onto it or leave it, affect your health:

Early retirement

Early retirement
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Many men yearn for a retirement filled with travel, golf and relaxation, but they might want to think twice before ending their career for good.

A study by Austrian researchers revealed that men who retire early have an increased risk of dying before age 67. According to the research, this can be attributed to the negative health habits adopted by retirees, including smoking, drinking, unhealthy eating and infrequent exercise.

"We find that a reduction in the retirement age causes a significant increase in the risk of premature death for males, but not for females," the study reported. "One additional year of early retirement causes an increase in the risk of premature death of 2.4 percentage points."

Sticking with a job you hate

Sticking with a job you hate
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Plugging along in a hated job can damage more than an employee's mental health.

Research published in the Human Relations journal found that employees who stayed at organizations out of either obligation or a perceived lack of other job options were more likely than other employees to experience physical health problems, including symptoms of exhaustion, stress and burnout.

"It may be that, in the absence of an emotional bond with the organization, commitment based on obligation is experienced as a kind of indebtedness – a loss of autonomy that is emotionally draining over time," said study co-author Alexandra Panaccio, an assistant professor at Concordia University in Montreal.

Working overtime

Working overtime
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An old saying maintains a little hard work never killed anyone, but research shows that might not be true.

A European study found working overtime can be bad for an employee's heart. Those who worked at least 10 hours a day had a 60 percent higher risk of heart-related problems, such as death due to heart disease or a nonfatal heart attack, than those who didn't work overtime.

The researchers offered several explanations, including the possibility that overtime workers are more likely to have type-A personalities that make them more aggressive, competitive, tense, time-conscious and generally hostile, and the possibility that employees who work overtime will do so even when ill rather than seek medical help.

"Physicians should be aware of the risks of overtime [work] and take seriously symptoms such as chest pain, monitor and treat recognized cardiovascular risk factors, particularly blood pressure, and advise an appropriate lifestyle modification," said Gordon McInnes, a professor of clinical pharmacology at the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

Commuting

Commuting
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The act of simply getting to work can take its toll on employees' health.

A study published in the BMC Public Health journal reveals that workers who get to work by train, car or bus have more adverse health effects than workers who ride their bikes or walk. The research shows commuters suffered more incidences of negative perceived general health, which resulted in an increased number of absences from work.

"Generally, car and public transport users suffered more everyday stress, poorer sleep quality, exhaustion, and felt that they struggled with their health compared to the active commuters," said Erik Hansson, one of the study's authors at Lund University in Sweden.

Long-term unemployment

Long-term unemployment
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Just having a job can be good for a person's emotional well-being.

Research presented during a congressional briefing on the psychological benefits of employment and the impact of joblessness revealed long-term unemployment can trigger mental health issues.

The study shows those who were unemployed for more than 25 weeks in the past year were more likely than their employed counterparts to experience mental health issues for the first time.

The researchers attributed their findings to the sense of purpose that work provides.

"When people are exposed to long-term unemployment, they obviously feel that they've lost control of their capacity to earn a living and take care of their families," said study researcher Arthur Goldsmith, a professor of economics at Washington and Lee University. "They worry about their futures."

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance business and technology writer who has worked in public relations and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter. You can reach him at chadgbrooks@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @cbrooks76.

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  • The afternoon nap

    The afternoon nap
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    Keeping employees from taking a regular afternoon nap, as most jobs do, could cause heart problems.

    A study published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine found that half-hour siestas boost heart health and help prevent deadly cardiovascular disease.

    According to the research, working men showed the greatest benefits from a little daily shuteye, no matter the number of naps or their duration, with a 64 percent lower risk of death from heart disease than those who didn't nap.

    The authors suggest naps could boost heart health via stress reduction. The study confirms past research that shows that rates of death from heart disease are lower in countries where midday naps are common, such as the Mediterranean and parts of Latin America.

    Friends at work

    Friends at work
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    While it has been generally established that people with active social lives live longer, that also applies to employees in the workplace.

    According to research published in the Health Psychology journal, employees who believe they have the personal support of their peers at work are more likely to live a longer life.

    Researchers followed the health records of adults who worked an average of 8.8 hours a day through a two-decade period. Those who reported having low social support at work were more than two times more likely to die sometime within those 20 years.

    During the course of the study, 53 participants died; most of them had negligible social connections with their colleagues.

    Sucking up to the boss

    Sucking up to the boss
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    Depending how it's done, employees who suck up to the boss could be helping or hurting their mental health.

    A study published in the Journal of Management Studies suggests that politically savvy professionals who use kissing up to an employer as a way to enhance their standing in the office may avoid the psychological stress felt by those who aren't as shrewd about their workplace behavior.

    The research shows that feelings of ostracism, which can lead to job tension, emotional exhaustion and depression, often can be neutralized by an employee's savvy use of ingratiation skills in the office.

    Ho Kwong Kwan, a graduate student at Drexel University who was one of the study's lead authors, said the key lies in how well the employee reads the body language and expressions of co-workers. The employee who isn't very politically savvy can actually make things worse by sucking up.