A meta-analysis of 228 studies, published in Behavioral Science & Policy Association, examined 10 workplace stressors impacting physical and mental health. Among others, these stressors included: long working hours; shift work; low social support; and, lack of employer-provided healthcare. The researchers then measured how those stressors impact 4 health outcomes: self-rated poor physical health; self-rated poor mental health; physician-diagnosed health problems; and, yikes...death.
- Work-family conflict more increased the likelihood that employees will experience self-reported mental health problems by 200%+ and increased the risk of physical health problems by 90%+.
- Job insecurity correlated with an increase in self-reported physical problems.
- A sense of low organizational justice ("a lack of perceived fairness in the organization"), increased the likelihood of a physician-diagnosed condition by ~50%.
In sum, workplace stressors may predict negative health consequences almost as well as exposure to secondhand smoke does.
The cost of workplace stress? According to Insights, workplace stress is responsible for 120k deaths/year and $190B in healthcare costs.
- One the one hand: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) asserts that “[s]econdhand smoke harms children and adults, and the only way to fully protect nonsmokers is to eliminate smoking in all homes, worksites, and public place.” That’s pretty strong language implying not just a correlation but causation!
- On the other hand: A study published the Journal of the National Cancer Institute detailed 76k women over 10+ years. There was no statistically significant relationship between lung cancer and exposure to passive smoke. How can this be, given the CDC’s supposed correlation if not causation?
- Only among women who had lived with a smoker for 30 years or more was there a relationship that exhibited “borderline statistical significance.”
Might the same problem exhibit itself with the finding that workplace stressors may predict negative health consequence almost as well as exposure to second-hand smoke does? That is, correlation and causation are implied when, in fact, neither has been demonstrated.
RULE #1 for reading research findings: Science does not “prove” anything. Research attests that the data gathered indicate a relationship that’s not due to chance alone and at a predetermined probability of error (e.g., 1/10, 1/100, 1/1k, 1/10k). One can set the level of probability of error so low that just about any relationship can be demonstrated. But, never “proven.” This fact used to be taught in junior high science.
Let the discussion begin…
To read the Boston Globe article, click on the following link:
To read the CDC's report, clic on the following link:
To read the Forbes article, click on the following link: