Lousy Jobs Spell Bad Health in the 40s

Health In Focus   - G J E 4
  • Job satisfaction in the late 20s and 30s impacts health in the 40s
  • Maximum impact was found to be on mental health
  • Participants complained of being depressed with troubled sleep
Job satisfaction stems from how happy an individual is in the work space, it could include the nature of the job, the role played by the individual, the importance given to the individual in the work space, the camaraderie shared with co-workers and the extent of office politics.
Lousy Jobs Spell Bad Health in the 40s
Lousy Jobs Spell Bad Health in the 40s

Job satisfaction is generally considered on two levels
  • The Global Level: This refers to the overall satisfaction with the job. The person is happy to be working for the company and has no major complaints. It could also mean that certain aspects of the job are highly satisfactory and override any misgivings that may exist in other aspects.
  • Job Facet Satisfaction: The employee may be happy when considering certain aspects of the job but may not be happy with certain other aspects like the kind of job, the number of working hours, the salary, co-workers or even the commute to work. The expected response of people in this category is usually "My job is good but the commute to work is hard."
Job satisfaction has been found to be important in the mental health of an individual, however, a new study by researchers from The Ohio State University has found that the job satisfaction that people would feel during their late 20s or 30s can affect their mental health in the 40s.

‘When you love your job, you don’t have a single day.’
Jonathan Dirlam, a Doctoral student at The Ohio State University says "We found that there is a cumulative effect of job satisfaction on health that appears as early as your 40s." He conducted this study along with Hui Zheng who is an associate professor of Sociology from the same University.

It was long believed that job satisfaction could take a strain on the well being of the individual later in life, but the two scientists have shown that it could affect as early as in the 40s. As Zhen adds, "You don't have to be near the end of your career to see the health impact of job satisfaction, particularly on your mental health."

National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979

The study results were based on the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 which included details of adults who were in the age group between 14 to 22 years in 1979. 6432 Americans were included in the study.

The job satisfaction of people between 25 and 39 years of age was studied and a range of heath measures were calculated after they turned 40. The job satisfaction criteria ranged from 'dislike' (graded 1) to like 'very much' (graded 4). Participants were categorized into 4 groups based on the job satisfaction over a period of time, ranging from consistently low to consistently high.

Some participants started of on a very high job satisfaction level and then the satisfaction levels reduced while some others started with low job satisfaction but it then improved over a period of time.
  • 45% of the participants declared consistent low job satisfaction.
  • 23% of the participants were happy initially but the levels showed a downtrend early on in their career.
  • 15% of the participants were happy with their jobs and were consistent.
  • 17% of the participants showed increasing job satisfaction levels with advance in time.
The health of people who were consistently happy with their jobs were compared with the other three groups.
  • Those who were not happy with their jobs throughout faired poorly in the mental health test and complained of plenty of problems, increased level of depression and problems with sleep.
  • Those who were happy with their jobs initially but whose job satisfaction lowered over a period of time displayed a lot of problems and difficulty in sleeping but there were no depression levels that could be associated with them.
  • The study did not find any doctor detected physical ailment like cancer or diabetes.
The study co-author Zheng says "The higher levels of mental health problems for those with low job satisfaction may be a precursor to future physical problems. Increased anxiety and depression could lead to cardiovascular or other health problems that won't show up until they are older."

Dirlam was quick to add that the study ended before the onset of the great recession. "The recession almost certainly increased job insecurity and dissatisfaction, and that could have resulted in more negative health effects."

Tips to Improve Job Satisfaction

The study is indicative of the effect of job satisfaction on good mental health. Here are a few tips to improve job satisfaction.
  • Identify the Most Important Factors for a Job: Some people believe it is the salary while others believe it is the nature of the job. Find a job that best suits your requirements. If traveling to work is a problem, find a job close to home, if the pay and the nature of work does not bother you too much. On the other hand, if you enjoy the kind of work you have to do, you might not mind the distance.
  • Learn to Take Office Politics in Your Stride: Do not get involved in excessive office politics and maintain a mature distance.
  • Spend Quality Time at Home: The time spent with family need not be long hours but can be quality time that everyone would cherish. This will ensure a good work-life balance that would not tub at heart strings but will boost mental health.
Job satisfaction is not only to make every day a satisfying one but to ensure sound mental health later on in life.

  1. 10 Psychological Keys to Job Satisfaction - (
Source: Medindia

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