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NIOSH Finds Certain Job Factors Relate to Fair or Poor Health in U.S. Workers

May 30, 2017

Occupation, lack of paid sick leave and multiple psychosocial factors are related to workers’ own perceived low health status. That is the key finding of a NIOSH study to be published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

According to the researchers, workers in business operations jobs, such as marketing or human resource professionals, were more likely to rate their health as fair or poor. Workers who had no paid sick leave, worried about becoming unemployed, had difficulty balancing work and family or who were bullied at work were more likely to report poor health.

“We believe this is the first study to show an association between business operations jobs and poor health,” says Sara Luckhaupt, M.D., NIOSH medical officer and the study's lead author. “Knowing which aspects of a person’s job can lead to poor health can help public health and employee wellness professionals develop tailored workplace interventions to advance worker well-being.”

The study considered five categories of job characteristics:

  1. occupation;
  2. type of pay and job benefits;
  3. work organization;
  4. chemical/environmental hazards;
  5. workplace psychosocial factors including job insecurity, a hostile work environment and work-life imbalance.

The researchers analyzed data from 10,767 adults employed across many occupations who participated in the 2010 National Health Interview Survey. Respondents answered open-ended questions about their employment status and features of their job. They also were asked to rate their health on a scale of excellent to poor, a measure known as self-rated health. Researchers found significant associations between the respondent’s self-rated health and job characteristics from each category.

Although workers in production occupations were most likely to report fair or poor health when only occupation was considered, once these results were adjusted for sociodemographic factors such as age, race and family income, workers in the business operations profession were 85% more likely to report fair or poor health compared with workers in all other occupations.

Additional findings:

  • Workers with no paid sick leave were 35% more like likely to report fair or poor health.
  • Workers who were worried about becoming unemployed were 43% more like likely to report fair or poor health.
  • Workers who reported difficulty combining work and family were 23% more likely to report fair or poor health.
  • Workers who reported being bullied at work were 82% more likely to report fair or poor health.

According to the researchers, these additional findings highlight the effect specific job characteristics may have on health compared to occupation alone. "Work is an important determinant of health. The influence of work on a person’s health manifests in various ways, such as employment conditions, how the work is organized, specific job-related tasks, exposures to hazardous agents and long work hours," NIOSH explains. "Work-life balance takes on a whole new meaning when these issues are perceived by the workers themselves as having a negative effect on their well-being."

The study's abstract is published online ahead of the print publication.

Originally published May 30, 2017.


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