Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

Hate your job? Here’s why you shouldn’t wait around to change it

parks-and-rec.jpeg

All of us want to be happy in our careers. That much goes without saying. But most of us have also killed time at jobs we don’t really care about – even jobs we hate.

But now a new study has confirmed what we all already knew, deep down: doing a job that doesn’t make you happy is bad for you.

In a major piece of new research, sociologists at Ohio State University in the US discovered a link between job satisfaction (or a lack thereof) in our late 20s and 30s, and our physical and mental health in our 40s.  

And while job satisfaction was found to have some effect on physical health, its impact was shown to be especially strong on mental health later in life – potentially leading to issues such as depression, anxiety and trouble sleeping.

“We found that there is a cumulative effect of job satisfaction on health that appears as early as your 40s,” says Jonathan Dirlam of Ohio State University’s sociology department, lead author of the study. 

The researchers analysed data from almost 6,500 Americans who took part in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979, which tracked adults who were aged between 14 and 22 when the survey began in 1979.

x

Bored at work? It could affect your health later in life.

They looked at how happy people were with their jobs between the ages of 25 and 39, asking them to rate how satisfied they were with their careers from 1 (dislike very much) to 4 (like very much) over the course of those years.

Using this information, researchers were able to split the participants into four groups. Two of these groups felt positive about their careers between the ages of 25 and 39: those who were consistently happy at work, and those who felt gradually more content as time passed.

The other two groups were generally unhappy with their careers, although in subtly different ways. They either saw their job satisfaction decrease over time, or just felt plain dissatisfied the whole time. 

After all of these participants turned 40, the researchers then asked them a range of questions related to their physical and mental health.



Mental health was the most affected by how people felt about their jobs. People who were unhappy at work throughout their early careers consistently reported higher levels of depression, sleep problems and excessive worrying. They were also more likely to have been diagnosed with emotional problems, and generally scored lower on an overall mental health test.

Similarly, participants whose job satisfaction started out relatively high – but then dipped – were also more likely to feel worried and have trouble sleeping, and often had lower scores for mental health.

In contrast, people whose job satisfaction improved from their mid-20s to their late 30s saw no comparative mental health problems.

While job satisfaction (or lack thereof) didn’t affect physical health as much as mental health, it was still found to have a clear impact. Those who were consistently unhappy at work, or whose satisfaction declined between the ages of 25 and 39, said that their physical health was worse overall in their 40s. They also reported more problems such as back pain and frequent colds than people who felt content with their careers.

x

In How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Andie (Kate Hudson) plays a 20-something journalist who finds her job unfulfilling.

However, happiness at work wasn’t found to have any effect on physical health in terms of basic functioning, or in doctor-diagnosed diseases such as cancer and diabetes.

“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,” says Hui Zheng, associate professor of sociology at Ohio State, who also worked on the study.

Zheng adds that these participants were only in their 40s when their health was assessed – so job dissatisfaction in our 20s and 30s could still have other, longer-term mental and physical effects.

“The higher levels of mental health problems for those with low job satisfaction may be a precursor to future physical problems,” he says. 

“Increased anxiety and depression could lead to cardiovascular or other health problems that won’t show up until they are older.”



Dirlam also notes that their study ended before the Great Recession began in 2008 – suggesting that the generation who were in their late 20s and 30s during the recession may experience more negative mental and physical health effects in later life.

“The recession almost certainly increased job insecurity and dissatisfaction, and that could have resulted in more negative health effects,” he says.

So if you’ve been idling away in a job that doesn’t make you happy, this might be the motivation you need to take stock – and get out of there. 

Images: NBC Universal, iStock, Paramount

Related

devil-prada.jpg

Three ways to rejuvenate your career right now

iStock_23864390_LARGE.jpg

From panda hugger to chocolate taster: the world's best jobs

women writers.jpg

Online community vows to fight back against sexism in publishing

gin job.jpg

Dream job alert: this company will pay you to drink gin

main_rt.jpg

Lunch for one again? Stylist investigates the rise of work loneliness

bullet journal isntagram stress anxiety mindfullness.JPG

Could starting a bullet journal ease your anxiety?

cv dos and donts.jpg

The five clichéd phrases you should never use on your CV

siblings.JPG

How being a younger sibling could affect your future career prospects

sleep.jpg

How the number of hours you sleep could affect your salary

Comments

Latest...

Keep an energy journal to super-charge your working day

Forever fire-fighting? This trick will change everything

by Anna Brech
29 Jun 2017

The Department of Education reveals how much less it pays women

And teachers have responded

by Sarah Biddlecombe
28 Jun 2017

Golden rules of work happiness from Europe’s female tech leaders

From nap rooms to therapists and no overtime

by Anna Brech
22 Jun 2017

How hot does it have to get before you can legally go home from work?

As temperatures climb, it’s time to talk about your rights

by Kayleigh Dray
20 Jun 2017

Are you self-employed? These newsletters will help your business bloom

On-point emails packed with entrepreneurial tips

by Anna Brech
15 Jun 2017

How changing your name on your CV can boost career success

No deed poll required

by Kayleigh Dray
15 Jun 2017

This nanny job pays £50,000 – but you have to live in a haunted house

So… do you see dead people?

by Kayleigh Dray
15 Jun 2017

Annie Mac nails why maternity leave can be so difficult for many women

“It’s always weird when someone else does your job”

12 Jun 2017

The surprising way being friends with co-workers affects your career

Work wives, assemble

by Sarah Biddlecombe
09 Jun 2017

Laptop with a view: how getting closer to nature fuels creativity

Fire up your imagination by heading outdoors

by Anna Brech
08 Jun 2017