SCIENCE: Lousy Jobs in Your 20s Impact Mental Health in Your 40s
What would you do if you knew that the job you hate right now would have a negative impact on your mental health by the time you reach your 40s? A new study from Ohio State University suggests that it might. Researchers found that workers’ job satisfaction in their late 20s and 30s affects their overall mental health later on.
About the Study
Researchers used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979, which examined adults born between 1957 and 1964, specifically focusing on job satisfaction trajectories and health assessments of over 6,400 respondents aged 25-39.
“The researchers put participants in four groups: consistently low and consistently high job satisfaction, those whose satisfaction started high but was trending down and those who started low but were trending higher,” writes Jeff Grabmeier at Science Daily. “…About 45 percent of participants had consistently low job satisfaction, while another 23 percent had levels that were trending downward through their early career. About 15 percent of people were consistently happy at their jobs … and about 17 percent were trending upward.”
The researchers then compared the health measures of those who rated themselves consistently happy with their jobs against those of other groups of workers.
People’s Feelings About Their Jobs Affect Mental Health More Than Physical
Not surprisingly, the least satisfied workers “reported higher levels of depression, sleep problems and excessive worry. They were also more likely to have been diagnosed with emotional problems and scored lower on a test of overall mental health,” reports Science Daily.
The least satisfied workers were also more likely to have problems with their physical health, including colds and lower back pain, but they didn’t show more evidence of illnesses like cancer or diabetes — at least, not yet.
“The higher levels of mental health problems for those with low job satisfaction may be a precursor to future physical problems,” said study co-author Hui Zheng, associate professor of sociology at Ohio State.
Lead author Jonathan Dirlam, a doctoral student in sociology at Ohio State, also noted that the study concluded before the start of the Great Recession, which has “almost certainly increased job insecurity and dissatisfaction, and that could have resulted in more negative health effects.”
Before you quit your job in a hurry, however, consider this: the study also found that improving job satisfaction essentially wiped out the negative effects of feeling dissatisfied earlier on. So, if you hate your job today, your goal should probably be to take baby steps toward a satisfying career.
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