Is Workplace Stress Taking 33 Years out of Your Life?

Oct 30, 2015 09:00 PM EDT | By A. Maralit

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Stress in relation to race, educational level and gender are found to signify a gap in the life expectancy range among people. Studies in the past mapped US life expectancies to be hugely varied by location of residence and race.  On average, people in certain parts of the country live 33 years longer than those in other parts.

Harvard and Stanford researchers suggest that such gap is increasing, where those with economic advantage have more extended life spans while others remain with the same expectancy. Findings further relate that males and females who have less than 12 years of education tend to have life spans that trend similarly to adults in the 1950s and 1960s, which indicate that education is a significant factor in economic gain.  Correspondingly, economic recessions of these past years may have further enhanced the gap. Lack of job security, extended work hours and heavy demands have all taken a great toll on health.

While economic reasons commonly tie lower life expectancy to causes such as poor heath care access, pollution exposure, lack-lustre diet and nutrition, smoking and lack of exercise, this new study determines the correlation of the workplace to life spans with consideration of racial and educational factors.

The study utilised data from 18 groups of participants classified according to race, education and gender.  The researchers estimated the effect of 10 workplace conditions on the annual mortality and life expectancy of each group.  Among the factors considered are unemployment and layoffs, lack of health insurance, shift work, extensions to the working hours, lack of job security and even work-family conflict.  

Findings determined that lower educational levels correlate to jobs that have unhealthy workplace conditions and practices.  Higher educational levels corresponded with less workplace stress in comparison.

Those of the Black and Hispanic races were determined to have more lost years due to work compared to those of the white race in all educational and gender categorisation. 

While women were generally determined to have less workplace stress and better life expectancy than men, this rule exempted Hispanic women who had lesser life expectancy due to more workplace stress compared to Hispanic men.

The biggest life expectancy influencers across all the groups are unemployment and layoffs and lack of health insurance. These are closely followed by low job control for both men and women with job insecurity among the men and shift work among the women next. 

Based on these findings, the researchers recommend greater effort on the creation of healthier work conditions, with particular focus on workers who have less education. Fortunately, these factors may be relatively easy to resolve as long as better policies are put in place to support the workers.

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