Workers in These 10 Industries Have the Worst Health

A sick warehouse worker blowing his nose
StratfordProductions / Shutterstock.com

Where you work could affect more than how much you earn.

Certain industries are associated with a higher percentage of workers in fair or poor health, according to a ZenBusiness analysis of the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health Interview Survey.

This data predates the COVID-19 pandemic, and the novel coronavirus may have put some workers at even greater risk. Several of the industries in this article employ essential workers.

While it will likely be some time before we know the full impact of COVID-19, here’s a look at the 10 industries that had the unhealthiest workers before the pandemic hit.

10. Food and beverage stores

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Share of workers who report having fair or poor health: 15.4%

Not only do 15.4% of food and beverage store workers report having fair or poor health, but they earn a relatively paltry wage too. The national average wage for cashiers, for example, is only $11.72 per hour, as we report in “How Much 15 Types of Essential Workers Earn.”

9. Repair and maintenance

Auto mechanic working on a car
Syda Productions / Shutterstock.com

Share of workers who report having fair or poor health: 16.0%

Across all the industries analyzed by ZenBusiness, repair and maintenance workers saw their health take the sharpest decline from 2017 to 2018. These workers are often employed in automotive service and body shops, and the number of employees saying they had very good or excellent health dropped 13.9% over that period of time.

8. Transportation

Chris Curtis / Shutterstock.com

Share of workers who report having fair or poor health: 16.5%

Transportation workers take the second-largest number of sick days of any industry reviewed by ZenBusiness. In 2018, they called in sick on 4.6 days, on average, which is nearly double the average of 2.6 days across all industries.

7. Transportation manufacturing

Automotive assembly line worker
John Gress Media Inc / Shutterstock.com

Share of workers who report having fair or poor health: 16.5%

Overall, 16.5% of transportation manufacturing workers say they have fair or poor health, according to the National Health Interview Survey. What’s more, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says motor vehicle manufacturing has an injury and illness rate that is more than double the rate for all private industry.

6. Accommodation and hospitality

Family checks in at hotel
Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

Share of workers who report having fair or poor health: 16.6%

Accommodation and hospitality workers also take an above-average number of sick days each year. Those workers call in sick 3.6 days annually, on average, compared with the average of 2.6 days a year across all industries, ZenBusiness found.

5. Food services and drinking places

Bartender serving drinks
wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock.com

Share of workers who report having fair or poor health: 17.5%

Workers at food services and drinking places, such as restaurants and bars, suffer not only from poor health but also from a lack of health insurance. According to the ZenBusiness analysis, 23.3% of people in this field don’t have health insurance coverage. That is the second-highest percentage of the industries included in the analysis.

4. Food manufacturing

Food processing worker
SeventyFour / Shutterstock.com

Share of workers who report having fair or poor health: 19.4%

Food manufacturing workers may be employed in slaughterhouses, processing plants or bakeries. In 2018, nearly 20% reported being in fair or poor health, and these employees faced new challenges in 2020 with 23 states reporting coronavirus outbreaks in meat and poultry processing facilities, as of July.

3. Miscellaneous manufacturing

Manufacturing workers
Gorodenkoff / Shutterstock.com

Share of workers who report having fair or poor health: 19.9%

Both food and miscellaneous manufacturing workers report similar levels of fair and poor health. However, miscellaneous manufacturing employees became injured or ill at a rate of 2.2 cases annually per 100 full-time workers in 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is almost half the 4.2 cases per 100 full-time workers recorded for food manufacturing workers.

2. General merchandise stores

A shopper holds money at a store cash register
sbw18 / Shutterstock.com

Share of workers who report having fair or poor health: 20.9%

More than 1 in 5 workers at general merchandise stores reported being in fair or poor health in 2018. They also had more cases of injury and illness than those working in some manufacturing sectors. The rate of injury and illness at general merchandise stores was 4.5 cases per 100 workers in 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

1. Nursing and residential care

Essential worker
G-Stock Studio / Shutterstock.com

Share of workers who report having fair or poor health: 24.4%

Nursing and residential care workers have been on the frontlines as essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, nearly a quarter of them were already reporting fair or poor health, with workers taking an average of 3.7 sick days in 2018, according to the ZenBusiness analysis.

Wonder how much these workers get paid for risking their health? Check out “How Much Nurses Get Paid in Every State.”

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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