A bad job creates chronic stress
“If you’re engaged in a job you really dislike, every day you go to work you are experiencing the stress of not being happy,” says Bruce S. Rabin, MD, PhD, medical director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Healthy Lifestyle Program. Prolonged stress may kick off a domino effect of serious health problems. A battle with your boss or worries over workload could activate the stress regions of your brain. These activated areas in turn elevate certain hormones in your blood, most importantly cortisol and norepinephrine, which then course through your body, wreaking havoc on both physical and mental health. Find out 36 small ways to make your job less stressful.
A bad job puts your heart health at risk
Stress hormones cause your blood vessels to narrow, which makes blood pressure go up, Dr. Rabin explains. “They also increase the rate of movement of cholesterol into the blood vessels of the heart, so the development of atherosclerotic heart disease [hardening of the arteries] is accelerated.” It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that a 2015 publication in Current Cardiology Reports found that work stress such as “job strain and long working hours” was associated with a 10 to 40 percent greater risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. Find out the 12 signs you’re more stressed than you realize.
A bad job lowers your immunity
Stress hormones also do a number on your ability to fight illness. “They impair the function of your immune system so you are more prone to infection,” says Dr. Rabin. At the same time, the open floor plan offices popping up these days could be increasing your exposure to germs, says a 2011 study in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health. Employees in open-plan offices took up to 62 percent more sick days, found researchers. And immunity issues go beyond fighting off bugs. “These hormones also change the function of the immune system so you are more prone to have difficulties with an autoimmune condition, such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriasis,” Dr. Rabin adds.
A bad job can give you “desk potato” aches and pains
Two out of three office workers suffer pains in their lower back, neck, shoulders, and wrists which are attributed to common “desk potato” positions, such as sitting for long stretches, hunching over a keyboard, and staring at a monitor, says a 2013 survey from the American Osteopathic Association (AOA). Additionally, the survey found that over 70 percent of office workers spent 5-plus hours each day parked at their desk. “That means we’re sitting for almost a quarter of our waking lives and that’s really bad for our health,” Rob Danoff, DO, an AOA spokesperson, told PBS. “It can lead to weight gain and deconditioning of your muscles.” Check out these tips for recovering from a day of sitting.
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A bad job makes you miserable at home
Experts say employees are often surprised by the degree to which job-related anxiety and depression seep into other aspects of life. “When you leave work, it would be ideal if you left the work behind,” says James Campbell Quick, PhD, John and Judy Goolsby and Jacqualyn A. Fouse Endowed Chair at The University of Texas at Arlington and The University of Manchester in the United Kingdom. “Some people are able to do that well, but some experience ‘spillover effects,’ meaning they leave the office in a bad place psychologically then take their stress out on the people they live with.” This cross over isn’t limited to snapping at your spouse or kids, he adds. “Car accidents off the job can be related to stress on the job because people are preoccupied with what was going on at work instead of paying attention to what’s in front of them.” (Related: Do these 18 things every morning and you’ll have a stress-free, productive work day.)
A bad job increases your isolation
Too much time on the job can cause people to pull back from the rest of their lives. “Young tech people who put in really long hours begin to turn into couch potatoes and want to be left alone.” says Christina Maslach, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of California at Berkeley. “It’s not just being irritable, it’s being no good for anybody because you’re overwhelmed and haven’t slept. People talk about their relationships breaking up and not eating or sleeping well.” Additionally, a 2013 study from Kansas State University found that “workaholism,” defined as working over 50 hours each week, “was associated with reduced mental well-being,” doctoral researcher Sarah Asebdo said in a release.
A bad job can cause memory problems
It’s not just mood that is impacted by prolonged job stress. “The effects on mental health include difficulty focusing and thinking clearly,” says Rabin, adding that “thinking clearly” pertains not only to immediate tasks and calculations, but also to your overall ability to evaluate a big-picture situation. “Long-term elevation of stress hormones can also cause memory problems to occur at a younger age than they otherwise would,” he adds. Check out these health habits that boost your brain power.
A bad job puts your future at risk
Simmering job stress through your 20s and 30s doesn’t just make you miserable today, it can erupt into health problems in your 40s, says 2016 research from The Ohio State University. Researchers found that people who experienced low job satisfaction earlier in life reported sleep problems, higher depression levels, excessive worry, poorer general health, frequents colds, and back pain in middle age. “Increased anxiety and depression could lead to cardiovascular or other health problems that won’t show up until they are older,” co-author Hui Zheng, PhD, associate professor of sociology at Ohio State said in a release.
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