From owner-labor-l@YORKU.CA Sat Jun 1 17:30:05 2002
Date: Sat, 1 Jun 2002 13:51:44 -0700
Sender: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
From: radtimes <resist@BEST.COM>
Subject: Deadly Boring Jobs

Deadly Boring Jobs

By Ben Shouse, Science NOW, 31 May 2002

Dilberts of the world take note: Workers who have little control over how they do their jobs have an increased risk of death from any cause, according to new results from a long-term study. The finding suggests that giving employees more freedom could benefit their health.

Quit if you can. Jobs that offer little control may increase mortality.

In the 1980s, the ongoing Whitehall Study of British civil servants suggested that men in low-ranking jobs had double the risk of mortality compared to their higher-ranking counterparts, even after adjusting for factors such as age, blood pressure, and smoking. Researchers hypothesized that this was due to higher job stress, lack of social support, or what they called lower job control—a measure of the degree of latitude in organizing one's work.

To investigate the impact of job control in a broader cross-section of society, Ben Amick, an epidemiologist at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston, and colleagues used data from a survey study of American income patterns begun in 1968. From this sample, they assigned some 25,000 people a job control score (from 1 to 4) based on their past job titles. A score of 1 indicates the worker held only low-control jobs, such as assembly line worker, tollbooth collector, or nurse's aide. High-level management jobs scored a 4. After adjusting for gender, race, income, and other factors, workers in the lowest category had a 43% higher risk of death during the time they were working or the 10 years following retirement than workers in the highest category; the second-lowest category carried a 33% increased risk, the researchers report in the May/June issue of Psychosomatic Medicine. Stressful or demanding work, meanwhile, had no significant impact on mortality.

Amick points out that the results don't prove that unfulfilling work causes poor health. Sickly workers might take more passive jobs, for instance, although the researchers tried to account for this using workers' responses to questions about their health histories. Michael Marmot, lead researcher on the Whitehall study and an epidemiologist at University College London, calls the increased risk considerable, and suggests researchers look at ways to create work environments that free workers from mindless labor, especially in offices and service industries.