Current research into the relation between work and longevity describes an intricate web. “A constellation of work-related factors — whether you’re employed, how secure you are in your job, how much you enjoy your work — may influence both your day-to-day health and how long you live,” writes Katherine Hobson in Newsday. The article surveys an impressive list of studies showing that workers across the developed world suffered heart attacks and strokes in higher numbers within a decade of losing their jobs. Job insecurity can be just as much of a health hazard — putting most of us given the times, at some kind of risk.
Not surprisingly, well-paying, higher-ranking jobs correlate with longer lives. Those higher up the socioeconomic ladder die of the same diseases, just later – as many as thirty years later. Conversely, when lower-status jobs are demanding, the lack of control is bad for workers, and when they’re not, the tedium takes a toll. "If you spend your working life in a job that’s basically boring, you’re at risk of dying sooner," says Benjamin Amick III, of the University of Texas Health Science Center’s School of Public Health
Lower incomes also correlate to less healthy habits and less access to health care, but researchers suspect that the major culprit is stress, whether on the job or back at the homestead . . . or the FEMA trailer or cardboard box. They recommend a broad policy shift towards universal health care and getting the unemployed back to work quickly. “That’s particularly important for older workers,” comments Sarah Burgard, a sociologist at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research. We may not have much control over the economy, but we can get noisy about public policy and aspire to work that sustains rather than sucks the life out of us.