Boredom Can Be Fatal

May 23, 2002 ( - Bored workers may soon be dead workers.

The was the bottom line of a new study, which found that employees given little chance to affect their work tend to die earlier than those allowed more leeway to make their own workplace decisions, according to a Reuters news report.

Researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston found that people who spent their working lives in jobs where they had to make few decisions were 43% more likely to die than people in jobs with a lot of decision-making opportunities, and the increased risk continued for up to 10 years after they left their jobs.

People who spent their working lives in passive jobs, described as those with low demands and low control over what work they do and when, were also 35% more likely to die up to 10 years after the job ended.

According to researchers, many jobs giving workers little control can be highly repetitive with little variety of needed skills – making it that much harder for workers to become engrossed in their workplace tasks.

If a worker’s assigned task are so passive that he or she has to struggle to stay awake, researchers said, that could trigger the damaging release of stress hormones.

 Encouragingly, the researchers found that people with jobs that offered only a certain amount of decision-making opportunities were less likely to die early than those given no control.
The findings are based on surveys of the physical and psychological working conditions of members of 5,000 households from 1968 to 1991. Jobs were classified according to decision-making opportunities, psychological demands, security, support, and physical demands.