Work Stress May Hinder Healthy Habits

Stressed workers more likely to have unhealthy habits than unstressed workers

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) People with stressful jobs may want to hit happy hour pretty hard, while less stressed workers may choose healthier options. Employers could help promote healthy habits.

A recent review looked at several studies that asked workers about job-related stress and their lifestyle habits.

The results of the study found that people with high stress jobs were less likely to have healthy lifestyle habits.

"Encourage healthy habits in your workplace."

Katriina Heikkilä, PhD, from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in Helsinki, Finland, was the lead researcher of this study on job strain and overall health.

“Work and workplace-related issues are common sources of stress,” the study authors wrote. “Psychosocial stress at work has been shown to be associated with individual unhealthy lifestyle factors such as smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, physical inactivity and obesity.”

For this review, the researchers looked at 11 studies that focused on psychosocial stress in the workplace and disease. These 11 studies provided data on 118,701 people in the workforce. Of these workers, an additional 43,971 people were followed for a longer period of time ranging from two to nine years.

The studies surveyed the workers about levels of job strain and four healthy and unhealthy lifestyle factors, such as body mass index (BMI), alcohol intake, smoking and physical activity.

The results of the study showed that people who reported experiencing job strain were 25 percent more likely to have four unhealthy lifestyle factors, and 12 percent less likely to have four healthy lifestyle factors.

Over time, people with low job strain were more likely to adopt healthy lifestyle habits compared to people with high job strain.

Of the 118,701 people, only 16 percent were considered to have a healthy lifestyle, while the other 84 percent had some combination of one to four unhealthy lifestyle factors.

People who reported job strain were 11 percent less likely to have a healthy lifestyles than people who did not report job strain.

Overall healthy lifestyle was defined as a normal weight, non-smoking, moderate drinker who was physically active during leisure time.

The study authors concluded that work-related stress was linked to unhealthy lifestyle habits. And a lack of work-related stress was linked to healthy lifestyle habits. However, over time, the researchers did not find that work-related stress caused people to drop healthy lifestyle habits or pick up unhealthy lifestyle habits. Nor did they find that a lack of stress caused people to adopt healthy habits or drop unhealthy habits.

The researchers noted that these findings support the results of previous studies.

The authors recommended that employers encourage healthy lifestyles in the workplace, such as smoking cessation programs and opportunities for physical activity.

This study was published in May in the American Journal of Public Health.

The researchers was supported by the European Union NEW OSH ERA research program, the Academy of Finland, the BUPA Foundation, the Heinz Nixdorf Foundation, the German Ministry of Education and Science, the German Research Foundation, the Medical Research Council, the Economic and Social Research Council and Wellcome Trust. No conflicts of interest were declared.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 31, 2013
Last Updated:
August 19, 2013