Social support at work can cut mortality

By Tom Nordlie • Published: November 14th, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

A day on the job can take a lot out of you.

If your occupation involves physical exertion, mental calculation or emotional turmoil, the result can be stress.

Over time, it can impact your health.

Work-related stress has been linked to headaches, depression, even cardiovascular disease. But a positive workplace environment can make the pressure more tolerable.

In fact, a study published in the journal Health Psychology indicates that people may live longer if their co-workers are helpful and friendly.

In the study, researchers tracked more than 800 healthy men and women in fields such as manufacturing, finance and health care. Their average age was forty-one.

Each participant answered questions about stress-related factors on the job. These included queries about their workload, their freedom to make decisions and the support they receive from colleagues and supervisors.

During 20 years of follow-up, 53 of the participants died. When researchers analyzed information obtained from the deceased workers, they found some interesting correlations.

People who reported a high degree of support from co-workers had a death rate about one-third lower than that of other workers.

However, support from supervisors didn’t seem to make any difference.

Greater decision-making power translated to a lower death rate in men but a higher death rate in women.

So if you’re feeling down about your job situation, it might be a good idea to take a step back and weigh the pros and cons of staying there.

If you like your co-workers, that’s a plus. The camaraderie they provide might be enough to keep you enthused about an otherwise difficult situation.

And they might be providing a fringe benefit along with your paycheck … a better chance at a long life.