When we talk about employment and health, the conversation usually focuses on how your health impacts your ability to find and maintain meaningful employment, or how being healthy impacts your performance at work. However, while the above is absolutely true, the opposite is true as well – employment is in fact one of the most influential determinants of health.
Some of the ways employment can impact your physical, mental, and social health include:
- Positively influencing self-esteem
- Providing a vital link between the individual and society
- Enabling personal fulfilment
- Social contact and satisfaction arising from involvement in a collective effort (Institute of Public Health in Ireland, 2005).
Not only does employment influence health directly, it also shapes many other aspects of life important for health and wellbeing, including the ability to pay rent, bills, and afford healthy food. For more info on how all of the various determinants of health influence each other, check out this great short video from the Wellesley Institute.
While employment in and of itself has been linked to health, specific aspects of your work also influence health – in addition to such obvious factors as physical hazards in the workplace or stress, the social organization of your workplace, management styles, degree of control you have, and social relationships have also all been found to influence health. Some examples of this include:
- Little opportunity to use your skills and low decision-making authority can negatively impact health (WHO, 2003)
- Little control over one’s work is strongly related to an increased risk of low back pain, sickness absence and cardiovascular disease (WHO, 2003). For example, a study of civil servants in the U.K. showed that individuals with low job control were nearly twice as likely to report coronary heart disease than other workers (Institute of Public Health in Ireland, 2005)
- Receiving inadequate rewards (e.g. money, status, or self-esteem) for the effort put into work has been linked with increased cardiovascular risk (WHO, 2003).
In addition to impacting health, these factors also play a role in job satisfaction, performance, and success in your chosen field. Whatever your role at work may be, having control, being rewarded, and using your skills could positively impact all aspects of your life.
World Health Organization (2003). Social Determinants of Health: The Solid Facts. http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/98438/e81384.pdf
Institute of Public Health in Ireland (2005). Health Impacts of Employment: A Review. http://www.publichealth.ie/sites/default/files/documents/files/IPH_Employment_Health_24pp.pdf