Young business man

This job is killing me

Peter Harris|

I didn’t know that this job was killing me, but apparently it is. It’s well known that most people suffer from stress caused by their jobs. In fact, a recent Statistics Canada survey (yes, I read them all) revealed that for 60% of Canadians, work is their main cause of stress. And for those people looking for work – unemployment can come with an even larger set of worries.

All of which is why I was unhappy (stressed?) to read a report on MSNBC that confirmed that stressful jobs are aging us badly. The study found that stress could be having “damaging effects on critical DNA in our cells,” causing not only rapid aging, but also reduced immunity, heart damage and even potentially cancer. Ouch.

So what’s the solution? Sit down in a comfortable, supportive chair and de-stress. Take a minute to yourself. Actually that’s bad advice. Sitting for long periods of time, as most office workers do, can cut your life-expectancy by up to two years. This comes from an in-depth study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, (a story I found on usnews.com.)

In the study of 220,000 people, those who were sitting down for 11 hours a day had a markedly higher mortality rate. So if your job involves eight or more hours a day behind a desk, make sure to get up and get active in your personal time.

Of course you can always get up at work, walk around the office and stretch your legs. But be careful of that too. As we reported a few weeks ago, most workplaces are toxic hotspots for germs, and the common areas – the kitchen, faucets, microwaves, water fountains and vending machines are amongst the most contaminated with a high risk of transmitting illness.

There’s more. With obesity-related health issues continuing to be leading causes of death in North America, it can be distressing to learn that it is often our jobs that are making us fat. A recent report found that jobs with high stress and jobs that involved long periods of sitting were particularly fattening. Among the jobs most likely to be obesity-inducing are travel agents, judges, social workers, teachers and (surprisingly) fire fighters. See the full list here.

It’s not just the weight, the stress, the sitting, or the germs either that are killing us. Just getting to work can be deadly. According to a study by Collegeathome.com, nearly 100,000 heart attacks a year are attributed to traffic in the U.S. They found that shortening your commute by 20 minutes a day can reduce your stress-level by 20% and your risk of heart attack by a whopping 300%. (Long commutes also lead to higher levels of obesity and stress, which as we’ve seen, are killing us.)   

So, work is murder. Your job is killing you. Is there an upside, a silver lining? Actually there is. In the Longevity Project, Dr. Howard Friedman and Dr. Leslie Martin use statistical data to track study participants over 80 years to determine what really affects their health and lifespan. The results show that it’s not actually stress-free, happy people who live the longest; it’s those who are the most persistent. People who have more meaningful jobs, who believe in their work and are determined to accomplish more live longer, healthier lives. This had a bigger impact on their longevity than even eating habits or exercise.

So, it turns out that while work may be fraught with peril, it’s the only way to live.

 

- Peter Harris

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