Research/studies Worker health and wellness

Work stress as bad as secondhand smoke, researchers suggest

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Boston – Workplace stress may be as unhealthy as exposure to secondhand smoke, according to a study from Harvard Business School and Stanford University.

Researchers analyzed more than 200 studies assessing the effects of workplace stressors on health. Among their findings:

  • Job insecurity increased the odds of reporting poor health by 50 percent.
  • High job demands increased the odds of a physician-diagnosed illness by 35 percent.
  • Long work hours increased mortality by nearly 20 percent.

“Our results suggest that many workplace conditions profoundly affect human health,” the study states. “In fact, the effect of workplace stress is about as large as that of secondhand tobacco smoke, an exposure that has generated much policy attention and efforts to prevent or remediate its effects.”

Researchers said workplace wellness initiatives should go beyond smoking cessation or exercise promotion to include job redesigns that limit work hours, reduction of shift work, and use of flexible work schedules to achieve a better work-life life balance.

The study was published in the spring issue of the journal Behavioral Science & Policy.