BUSINESS

5 Job-Related Stressors That Are More Likely To Kill You Than Secondhand Smoke

03/04/2015 03:00 pm ET | Updated Mar 04, 2015

Job-related stress can be even more deadly than secondhand smoke exposure.

That's according to a study being published next week in the scholarly journal Management Science. Work-related stress, the study finds, is partly to blame for up to $190 billion in health care costs. Specific workplace stressors contribute to 120,000 deaths in the U.S. each year -- more than the number of deaths from diabetes, Alzheimer’s or influenza.

Stanford Graduate School of Business professors Stefanos A. Zenios and Jeffrey Pfeffer and Harvard Business School assistant professor Joel Goh analyzed 228 previous studies to put together a report on the workplace stressors that are most likely to contribute to poor health and even death.

The researchers measured how work-related stressors can impact mortality using an "odds ratio." The ratio indicates how much more likely someone is to experience negative health consequences that could lead to death after being exposed to the stressors versus not being exposed to them.

Here's a chart that shows how five work-related stressors can impact mortality in comparison to secondhand smoke exposure:

stanford
(Image credit: Tricia Seibold | Stanford Business)

The researchers hope this study will cause employers to put a greater focus on workers' health.

"We have lost focus on human well-being," Pfeffer, one of the study's authors, was quoted as saying on the Insights by Stanford Business website. "It’s all about costs now. Can we afford this, can we afford that? Does it lead to better or worse financial performance for the company? We’re talking about human beings and the quality of their lives. To me, that ought to get some attention."

The study also looked at the impact these stressors have on how employees self-reported mental and physical health, as well as how they're connected with physician diagnoses. Here's a more detailed breakdown on five workplace stressors that are literally killing us, according to the report:

1. Low job control

Having a low rank in the hierarchical structure can cause workers to feel like they have no control over their work life. This stress can also increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, a study cited in the paper found.

2. Unemployment

Losing your job can have serious negative impacts on your health, per studies cited in the paper. It can double the likelihood of being depressed, and those without jobs are 80 percent more likely to report poor well-being. The negative result is caused by "financial stress resulting from the loss of income and also separation from the social identity of being productively employed and social isolation from coworkers."

3. No health insurance

Not having health insurance negatively affects workers in two ways, according to the study. For one, not having insurance increases financial stress, which can be detrimental to health. It also delays getting necessary health care, which can make health issues worse.

4. Long hours and overtime

Working long hours is associated with self-reported hypertension, among other health problems.

5. Work-family conflict

The study defined this as “when one’s efforts to fulfill work role demands interfere with one’s ability to fulfill family demands and vice versa.” Stress related to this can cause mental and physical health problems and lead to an increased use of alcohol.

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