It might not be brain surgery, but the service industry may actually be more stressful.
A new study carried out by scientists at Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China, found that demanding jobs that offer employees little control are among the most devastating to mental and physical health.
To reach this conclusion, researchers analyzed the data of more than 138,700 participants from six previous studies about job-related health.
They used this information to classify jobs into four categories based on control and how mentally demanding the role. Jobs with low demand and low control (like manual labor) were labeled ‘Passive’, jobs with high control (like architects or scientists) were labeled ‘Low Stress’, and jobs with both high demand and high control (like teachers or doctors) were labeled ‘Active.’ The category labeled ‘High Stress’ included jobs that were demanding, but offered low levels of control.
The researchers found that restaurant servers have, on average, a 22 percent higher risk of stroke than those with ‘Low Stress’ jobs. That figure jumps to 33 percent for women when splitting the data by gender.
The researchers explained that while you might expect those with high-flying jobs like architects or scientists to have the highest blood pressure, work-related stress is heavily dependent on whether or not you have a job that makes you feel valued and in control of your circumstances.
For example, brain surgeons may very well be mentally exhausted after a full day’s work, but they’re also more likely to feel respected than, say, a waitress making below minimum wage and getting screamed at all day by fussy customers. For this reason, researchers found that those with low demand/high control gigs had no increased risk of stroke or heart problems.
Researchers also remarked that servers are often stuck with disruptive shift patterns that can be linked to poor health and that they may be pushed to drink and smoke.
“Having a lot of job stress has been linked to heart disease but studies on job stress and stroke have shown inconsistent results,” said Dingli Xu of the Southern Medical University. “It’s possible that high stress jobs lead to more unhealthy behaviours, such as poor eating habits, smoking, and a lack of exercise.”
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