Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Linking Theory with Practice (Mbm), C. L. Cooper, ed., E. A. Locke, G. L. Cooper, R. K. Burke, eds., Blackwell Publishers, Chapter 2, 2000 May, :34-51
We have good news and bad news about going to work. First, the good news. After controlling for socieconomic status and health, people who have paid employment (that is, jobs) report having a significantly higher quality of life (Ruchlin and Morris, 1991). Having a full-time job also is associated with slower declines in perceived health and physical functining as one approaches old age (Ross and Mirowsky, 1995). These patterns prevail for both men and women. The healthful effects of work are perhaps even more compelling for women, however, who suffer significantly lower rates of preterm delivery when they have full time jobs (Marbury et al., 1984; Saurel-Cubizolles and Kaminski, 1986). In short, work is good for you. If you have a job you are likely to live longer and healthier, be happier, and even have healthier babies. Of course, work usually brings income and that brings better health care and generally a better social environment. But the beneficial effects of paid work hold even after controlling for income. In fact, work provides opportunities for self-fulfillment, meaningful social ties, and independence. Now the bad news. Your job might be killing you if you picked the wrong occupation. For example, in England the Whitehall studies of thousands of civil servants (for example, Bosma et al., 1998; Marmot et al., 1997) have demonstrated an inverse social gradient in mortality from coronary heart disease (CHD). Those employees in the highest grade (administrators) had age-adjusted CHD rates that were significantly lower than those in the lowest grades (clerical and office support staff). Of all the factors examined, the largest contributors to this social gradient were work characteristics, especially personal control in the workplace. This factor had a larger impact than the standard CHD risk factors.