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Stress Management Health Center

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Layoffs, Work Stress Linked to Injury and Illness

continued...

One clue comes from what the company did after the study. Probst said she recommended that the company reward workers for better safety records. To the best of her knowledge, no such change was made.

Steven L. Sauter, PhD, is chief of the organization science and human factors branch of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). "I think this is a very significant contribution," Sauter tells WebMD. "What the research needs to do in this area is tie this job insecurity to these types of outcomes. Most importantly, this study looks at the mechanisms for poor safety compliance. You need to know these mechanisms to design interventions."

A second study asked a national sample of more than 2,000 workers what they thought their job was doing to -- or for -- their physical and mental health. People who said their jobs made their health worse were much more likely to have jobs they described as highly stressful or high-pressure.

One interesting finding was that people with the lowest-paying jobs were significantly more likely to say that their job was good for their health than were people with higher-paying jobs.

"We really puzzled over that," lead author Susan L. Ettner, PhD, tells WebMD. "It's almost like people with higher-paying jobs have a sense of entitlement -- people who expect more are disappointed when they don't get it. People at the low end of the wage scale are just happy to be employed; whereas people in higher-end jobs not only expect more pay but expect their work to be stimulating and have a whole layer of higher expectations. If the higher-wage earners are expecting more, they are more critical of the impact of their jobs."

Ettner, a health economist at the University of California, Los Angeles, schools of medicine and public health, said the study pointed to ways that employers can make jobs healthier. A clue came from the finding that self-employed workers found their jobs more healthful. Another clue came from people who said that their jobs required them to learn and use a wide range of skills -- and that they believed this work to be good for them.

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