Little control over high-stress jobs can lead to early death

high-stress jobs

It is known that having greater control over a job can help us manage work-related stress. But now, researchers find that it is a matter of life and death.

Researchers from Indiana University Kelley School of Business show that people in high-stress jobs with little control over their workflow die younger or are less healthy than those who have more flexibility and discretion in their jobs and are able to set their own goals as part of their employment.

The finding is published in Personnel Psychology and has been presented at the 2015 Academy of Management Conference in Vancouver.

Researchers investigated the interactive relationship between job demands and control and death. They used a 7-year time-lagged design in a sample of 2,363 people from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study.

The Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS) is a long-term study of a random sample of 10,317 men and women who graduated from Wisconsin high schools in 1957.

It provides an opportunity to study the life course, intergenerational transfers and relationships, family functioning, physical and mental health and well-being, and morbidity and mortality from late adolescence through 2011.

In the current study, researchers find that for individuals in low control jobs, high job demands were associated with a 15.4% increase in the odds of death compared to low job demands.

In addition, for people in high control jobs, high job demands are associated with a 34% decrease in the odds of death compared to low job demands.

Further analysis showed a similar pattern predicting body mass index (BMI) in the group of surviving individuals.

Researchers suggest that stressful jobs have clear negative consequences for employee health when paired with low freedom in decision-making.

However, stressful jobs can actually be beneficial to employee health if also paired with freedom in decision-making.

Therefore, companies can avoid the negative health consequences if they allow employee to set their own goals, set their own schedules, and prioritize their decision-making.

Follow Knowridge Science Report on Facebook, Twitter, and Flipboard.

Citation: Gonzalez-Mule E, Cockburn B. (2016). Worked To Death: The Relationships of Job Demands and Job Control with Mortality. Personnel Psychology, published online. DOI: 10.1111/peps.12206.
Figure legend: This image is for illustrative purposes only.