For some, work is a necessary evil of life—we work to pay the bills. For those of you who work full time, or perhaps more than 40 hours a week, you might have noticed a decline in your health since you started working. If you work a lot, you have less time to exercise, prepare healthy meals, and depending on your field of work, you’re probably cooped up inside all day. The combination of all of these factors will wear on you over time, and you might find it impossible to maintain a healthy lifestyle while working. World economic and medical research organizations have studied specific occupations that lead to poor health. It’s not only the rigorous and risky jobs that create health dangers. In many cases, sitting at a desk all day can be just as dangerous as working a job that requires physical labor or exposes you to dangerous chemicals.
Nine-to-five office employees often start before 9 a.m. and leave after 5 p.m., working under stress caused by unreasonable deadlines, understaffed departments and untrained managers. Managers with poor interpersonal skills engender stress through their manner of speaking and delegating work. “The way that people are managed at work has a profound influence on their well-being,” advises the Global Agenda Council on Health and Well-being. Stress has been named as the culprit of high blood pressure, chronic headaches and gastrointestinal disorders. If you think that the stress of your job is contributing to your health issues, you may need to re-evaluate your career path and find a job where the environment is less stressful and demanding.
Occupations requiring alternative shifts include nurses, air-traffic controllers and power-plant operators. Our 24-hour society demands night shifts. We often think that we can easily re-set our sleeping patterns in order to work the night shift, however, this messes with our circadian rhythm. Irregular sleep patterns cause fatigue, leading to errors and life-threatening situations. The Exxon Valdez oil spill, Chernobyl disaster and trucking accidents are noted as examples of life lost due to extreme sleep deprivation. If you feel like you haven’t slept in months, and you’re always lacking energy during the night shift, it might be time for a change. If you’re working a new job, you might have no choice but to work the night shift, however, if you have the choice, choose a job or a shift that will allow you to follow a normal sleeping pattern.
A sedentary lifestyle contributes to obesity. Couch potatoes aside, employees sitting at a desk or behind a wheel all day are at risk. The National Institutes of Health funded a study of bus drivers, a group with high obesity rates. Findings reported in Occupational Medicine revealed an overarching effect of sedentary jobs: To compensate for inactivity, bus drivers resort to unhealthy methods of weight control, namely skipping meals, fasting and taking diet pills. If you’re too busy at work to eat, or to eat a healthy meal, you are probably developing dangerously unhealthy habits. We often sit at our desks with a bag of chips, or pick up some fast food during our break. Doing this every once in a while won’t kill you, but if you rely on these eating patterns every single day you’ll likely experience unhealthy weight gain which is always accompanied by other ailments, often life threatening.
The physical demands of the trucking industry drive up health risk rates much higher than other U.S. industries, as reported in PubMed.gov. Prominent injuries include “non-traumatic musculoskeletal disorders of the neck, back and upper extremities” due to lifting, loading and strapping heavy materials. If you work in a high-risk industry, you should look to work for a company that has strict safety regulations and safety equipment in order to lower your chances of getting hurt on the job. If you work in an office, you may think that your risk for injury is relatively low, unless you have a run in with a stapler or burn your tongue on some hot coffee. However, if you sit at a desk all day, you could suffer severe back or neck problems later down the road. Most office chairs do not provide the support necessary to keep your spine aligned, creating back and neck pain for millions of Americans. If you sit at a desk, try using a back support pillow or cushion to help you maintain the proper posture throughout the day, which will keep your back aligned.
Most people don’t have the luxury to work less hours, or quit their jobs—there are bills to pay, mouths to feed, and life comes at you fast. If you feel like your job is negatively affecting your health, just think about the long run. Right now, you are focused on your need for income, however this might cost you your health in years to come. It’s not easy to change your career path, however, if you can’t find a way to live a healthy lifestyle in your current position, it may be necessary. The most important things is that you are aware of how your job is affecting your health. Awareness is the first step to minimizing risk exposure on the job and will keep you from forming bad habits. Raising awareness has inspired some companies to offer health initiatives like flexible hours, weight management programs and safety skills training. If your company offers amenities like this, take advantage of them. Use every resource you can to learn how to balance the demands of your job with taking care of your body, and you’ll be much better off in years to come.