Poor Job Satisfaction Can Hurt Your Health Later in Life

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Researchers saw negative impacts in mental health more often than in physical health.

Poor job satisfaction can impact your health later on in life, new research indicates.

The effects are seen to a greater degree in mental health than physical health, according to researchers at Ohio State University, who presented their findings this week at the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting in Seattle.

Lead study author Jonathan Dirlam, an Ohio State doctoral student in sociology, explains:

“We found that there is a cumulative effect of job satisfaction on health that appears as early as your 40s.”

For the study, the researchers used existing data on 6,432 Americans. They examined those participants’ job satisfaction from age 25 to 39, and the participants’ health situations after turning 40.

Researchers then put participants into four groups, based on their job satisfaction levels over the course of their early careers:

  • Consistently high (comprising about 15 percent of participants)
  • Consistently low (about 45 percent)
  • Started high but trended downward (23 percent)
  • Started low but trended upward (about 17 percent)

The group with consistently high job satisfaction was used as a reference to which the researchers compared the other three groups.

The group that reported low job satisfaction throughout early careers fared worse during their 40s on all five mental health indicators that were examined:

  • Levels of depression
  • Sleep problems
  • Excessive worry
  • Likelihood of having been diagnosed with emotional problems
  • Scores on tests of overall mental health

Those participants also reported worse overall physical health by the time they reached their 40s, with more problems like back pain and frequent colds.

The group with job satisfaction that trended downward during their early careers were more likely than the reference group to have frequent trouble sleeping, excessive worry and lower scores for overall mental health — but not depression or diagnoses of emotional problems.

They also reported worse overall physical health, with more problems like back pain and frequent colds.

The group with job satisfaction that trended upward reached their 40s without reporting any of the mental or health problems examined.

Regarding the presence of more mental health issues than physical health problems, study co-author Hui Zheng, an associate professor of sociology at Ohio State, added that it’s important to note that participants were studied when they were in their 40s:

“The higher levels of mental health problems for those with low job satisfaction may be a precursor to future physical problems.”

What do you make of these findings? Share your thoughts below or on Facebook.

Stacy Johnson

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