First appeared on Forbes.
The next time someone tells you, “my job is killing me,” it may not just be a figure of speech.
In a time when large employers now spend almost $900 per employee per year on wellness programs, one can only wonder whether stressful work environments have produced the very problems companies are trying to fix.
And now there’s new evidence that some workplace factors like job strain and shift work actually shorten life expectancy. A recent study attributes as much as 10 to 38 percent of premature death to harmful aspects of work. High-strain situations correlate to greater rates of unhealthy behaviors like overeating, less frequent exercise, and more use of harmful substances. Workers faced with high demands, low control, and low social support experience significantly higher rates of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, independent of traditional risk factors. Workers in high-strain work environments also have been shown to develop two times as many new cases of clinical depression and anxiety disorders compared to those in low-strain environments.
This paints a sober picture of the modern workplace—one where workers can suffer serious consequences from psychological duress.
Ideally, every work setting would enhance your health and life. Many companies can and do work towards this goal. Realistically, however, culture and management changes do not come quickly or easily, especially for companies with long-standing, hierarchical structures. The realities of business often distract executives from making a supportive work environment their highest priority.
A recent study on the relationship between resilience and industry-standard business and psychological metrics, conducted by meQuilibrium, found that higher resilience is strongly correlated with benchmark physical and psychometric measures, such as job performance, perceived stress, overall health, and job satisfaction.
Resilient workers are less stressed.
Our research found that there is a strong inverse correlation between perceived stress and resilience: higher resilience corresponds to lower perceptions of stress. In fact, individuals with high resilience have 46% less perceived stress than those with low resilience.
Resilience translates to better health.
Individuals with high levels of resilience are nearly five times more likely to report very good or excellent health, compared to their peers with low resilience. Conversely, individuals with low resilience scores are twice as likely to be overweight and twice as likely to have required a hospital stay in the past year.
Resilient employees have higher job satisfaction.
Those with high levels of resilience are almost four times as likely to be highly satisfied with their jobs when compared to those with low levels of resilience. This group is also half as likely to have reported one to three absences in the past month.
We all know a work environment can be stressful. Decades of research document significant effects of job strain on physical health, including heart disease, diabetes, depression and anxiety disorders, and other illnesses. Faced with an ever-quickening pace and fewer resources, today’s workers need and deserve skills to manage the pressures they experience. We’ve learned to give workers hard hats, safety gear, and training to improve their chances of success and safety. Now it’s time to start protecting what’s between our ears.