Work Can Be Bad For You

If you think your job is hurting your health, you’re not the only one. A recent survey from NPR shows that many Americans think their jobs are making them less healthy.


The survey was a collaboration among NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. It asked 1600 people how they thought their jobs affected their eating, sleeping, stress, social lives and other health factors. Although only 16% of workers overall thought their jobs were unhealthy, the numbers were higher in specific industries.


Retail outlets came in as the most detrimental to health with 26% of respondents saying their jobs were not good for them. Health threats in retail include slipping on wet floors, being hit by delivery vehicles, being hit by falling objects and straining muscles by lifting.


Next were:


Construction or outdoor work 23%

Factory or manufacturing 21%

Medical 19%

Store 16%


The problems with these jobs were listed as dangerous chemicals, unhealthy air and, like retail, accidents and injuries. Sitting for long periods was also mentioned. Although office workers generally felt their jobs were safe, 24% said they feared health issues stemming from inactivity. Sitting all day is known to increase the risks of diabetes, heart disease and cancer


One solution is to get out of the bad work environment for a while by taking a vacation. But many workers with paid vacation days don’t use them. According to the survey, last year only 49% of workers used some or all of their paid vacation. In low-paying jobs, 47% of workers don’t get paid vacation days. To make the health situation worse, 40% of these jobs don’t offer health insurance, either.


However, some companies are trying to make the workplace healthier. Zappos, Twitter and Microsoft offer gym memberships and Sparks, Genentech and CamelBak provide healthy snacks. Twitter and SolidFire give workers unlimited paid time off. A number of large companies have good employee health insurance.


Still, many workers spend their days at a job where they’re not getting wealthy or even healthy.