Stress At Work Is Similar To Second-Hand Smoke, Says Study


By Amanda Froelich

Workers who face a great deal of stress on the job are 35% more likely to be diagnosed with an illness by a doctor.

If you’re one of the many striving to get healthier, here’s a tip: chill out! According to a new study conducted by researchers from Harvard Business School and Stanford University, being stressed out at work is just as bad as regularly being exposed to second-hand smoke.

The researchers used data from 228 other studies that assessed the effects of 10 workplace stressors on employee physical and mental health, morbidity, and mortality. It was determined that workers who faced a great deal of stress on the job were 35% more likely to be diagnosed with an illness by a doctor.

According to their findings, people who worked long hours have a 20% increased chance of early death. Potential stressors included: work-family conflict, job insecurity, high job demands, no health insurance, long work hours, and low organizational control.
What fear had the greatest impact on health? The fear of losing one’s job. The study relays that this fear increased the odds of having poor health by 50%.

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The scientists say the effects of second-hand smoke and stress on the job have statistically-similar detrimental effects on health. That concluded, it’s time to take a break and/or begin planning a vacation.

Thankfully, a number of companies are beginning to take the health risks posed by stress seriously, and are implementing programs to help their employees make more positive lifestyle and health choices. However, according to assistant professor at Harvard Business School, Joel Goh, businesses can still do a  lot more to benefit the individuals who work for them.

Goh told the Boston Globe: 

“Wellness programs are great at doing what they’re designed to do. But they’re targeting [employee behavior], not targeting the cause of stress. There are two sides of the equation and right now we focus on one side. We’re trying to call attention to the other side [of the equation], which is the effect of managerial practices.”

Thankfully, there are a few things employees can do to manage their stress and maintain sanity in the workplace:

1) Don’t Be Taken Advantage Of

It’s important to know your boundaries, and it’s also important for your boss to recognize them as well. According to Joanna Lipari, a psychologist in Los Angeles, it is important your boss knows how much time you’re willing to put in at work. If they desire for you to stay at the office longer, politely point out how much you accomplish during normal work hours. “Make it about being project-oriented, not time-oriented,” Lipari says.

This is an important tip, as too often people bring their work and frustration home with them and adversely affect their family. Leave work at work, and let home be about rest and relaxation.

2) Make Sure You Enjoy Your Job

This life is fleeting, therefore, make sure you’re enjoying the work you do and the people you are around. According to Lipari, “People who believe in what they’re doing handle stress better than those who don’t.”

Therefore, if you don’t love what you do, it may be time to find a new job or pursue a new direction entirely.

3) Journal Your Thoughts

Journaling is a great way to express stirred up emotions and form a more objective perspective on past events and future concerns. Never suppress, but do express in a healthy and safe way.

4) Get Real: Is There Really A Problem, Or Are You Just Paranoid? 

If you’re one of the many concerned with losing your job, you need to figure out if your terms of employment are really in jeopardy, or if you’re just creating drama. Ask a co-worker for their perspective, if you feel comfortable doing so.

What are your thoughts? Comment below and share this article!

This article (Stress At Work Is Similar To Second-Hand Smoke, Says Study) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author and

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