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Workers in stressful, low-control jobs have higher risk of early death: study

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Bloomington, IN – Workers in high-stress jobs who have little control over workflow and other key decisions are at a higher risk of dying early, according to a study from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.

Researchers examined a seven-year, longitudinal sample of 2,363 Wisconsin residents in their 60s who worked high-demand jobs. They found that workers in “low-control” jobs had a 15 percent higher risk of death. In contrast, workers in “high-control” positions had a 34 percent lower risk of death.

Cancer was the leading cause of death at 55 percent, followed by circulatory system ailments (22 percent) and respiratory system ailments (8 percent).

Nearly one-third of the deaths occurred among workers in the manufacturing industry, while front-line service workers accounted for 26 percent of deaths.

Researchers recommended that employers restructure some jobs to offer workers more input.

“These findings suggest that stressful jobs have clear negative consequences for employee health when paired with low freedom in decision-making, while stressful jobs can actually be beneficial to employee health if also paired with freedom in decision-making,” Erik Gonzalez-Mulé, lead author and assistant professor of organizational behavior and human resources at the Kelley School of Business, said in a press release.

At press time, the study had been accepted for publication in the journal Personnel Psychology.

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