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Research reveals that unhappiness and dissatisfaction at work causes illness

18 November 2005
 

Professor Cary Cooper
Professor Cary Cooper

Workers who are dissatisfied with their jobs, are more likely to become ill, reveals the largest ever study into the links between job satisfaction and physical and mental well-being, carried out by Lancaster University Management School and Manchester Business School.

The research, which analyses over 250 000 individuals, reveals that job satisfaction critically influences employee health and that dissatisfaction at work puts your mental health at risk.

Job satisfaction is a positive emotional state that results from the appraisal of one's job situation and is linked with the characteristics and demands of work. The analysis examines a range of job satisfaction facets, including fulfillment with the work itself, pay, promotion, supervision and co-workers.

Those with low job satisfaction are most likely to experience emotional burn-out, have reduced self- esteem and raised anxiety and depression.

Environmental factors can contribute to the incidence of many human diseases. However, the new findings show that there is a clear link between job satisfaction and mental health.

Even a modest decrease in job satisfaction can lead to burn out of considerable clinical importance

The research is of direct importance to employers as depression and anxiety are now the most common reasons for people starting to claim long-term sickness benefits, and have overtaken musculoskeletal conditions such as back pain.

The report asserts that organisations should include the development of stress management policies to identify and eradicate work practices that cause most job dissatisfaction (e.g hours of work, organisational management style, workload, work control/ autonomy etc.) as part of any exercise to improve employee health.

Occupational health clinicians should consider counselling employees diagnosed as having psychological problems to critically evaluate their

work- and help them to explore ways of gaining greater satisfaction from this important aspect of their life.

Professor Cary Cooper, Lancaster University Management School, said:

"Employers should seriously look at tackling the consequences of job dissatisfaction and related health problems with innovative policies.

This would be a wise investment given the potential substantial economic and psychological costs of unhappy or dissatisfied workers. Workers who are satisfied by their jobs, and more likely to be healthier as well as happier.

"New working practices and technological advances are rapidly changing the way we work. Many jobs are becoming more automated and inflexible.

Organisations are reducing their permanent workforce and converting to "outsourcing", which is increasing feelings of job insecurity. These trends have contributed to a "workaholic" culture throughout the UK and Europe - a climate that is impacting negatively in the levels of enjoyment and satisfaction employees gain from their work."

If work fails to provide adequate personal satisfaction employees are likely to feel unhappy or unfulfilled for long periods of each working day. Employers should make changes after identifying aspects of the job causing the most stress and dissatisfaction.