Surprising Health Problems that Come from Working Too Hard
Stress is the culprit for a wide variety of health issues.
By Catherine Conlan
Monster Contributing Writer
Is your job making you sick? A study recently published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found that job strain — defined as having high job demands combined with low job control — can increase your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by a whopping 45 percent. The study also found the risk was still significant for people who had a normal body mass index.
The root of many of the maladies stemming from overwork is stress. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, risk of injury and disease rises as employees experience longer stretches of job stress. Chronic health problems such as cardiovascular diseases, musculoskeletal issues and psychological problems can all be triggered by long-term job stress. And people with high levels of stress have almost 50 percent higher health care costs, the CDC says.
What are other health risks of overwork?
What are other health risks of overwork?
Health coach and consultant Dillan DiGiovanni got into health coaching after stresses in his own life were making him sick. “I began working as a health coach based on my own experience suffering from chronic health issues from my professional and personal life,” he says. “I struggled with ongoing illnesses that often led to sinus infections immediately due to poor nutrition and lifestyle habits I practiced. I also gained a lot of weight from eating out too often and not cooking for myself.”
DiGiovanni says he draws on his own experience to help clients who struggle with taking on too many tasks or obligations and don't leave enough time for exercise, good sleep and home-cooked meals. Some of the stresses from work he sees include high blood-pressure, inadequate nutrition and insomnia, all of which can put people at risk for even worse maladies.
Work can be hard on your body. As a chief podiatrist at NYC Podiatry Center of Excellence, Dr. Isaac Tabari says he sees a lot of foot health issues that come from working too hard. Some of the most common foot issues related to working too hard are joint inflammation, pain, stress fractures and plantar fasciitis, he says. “These complications could be caused from standing on one's feet too long, working on hard surfaces, wearing improper shoes during work or doing high-impact work activities, such as hard labor.”
And it’s not just manual labor that takes a toll on employee health. John Beiter is an executive coach and psychologist who works with senior executives in demanding, high-intensity positions, and says the stress they experience causes a wide variety of health issues. For example, one client’s compromised immune system made him vulnerable to a condition that resulted in severe nerve damage, which took many months to heal.
Another health effect of stress Beiter says he sees are panic and anxiety attacks. “One example is of an executive who prematurely accepted a major promotion, which involved a complete relocation and uprooting of her family. She had not thought out all the ramifications and began experiencing panic attacks in the middle of the night.”
“Taken to the absolute extreme death by overwork can result,” says Cheryl Palmer, founder of Call to Career. “This phenomenon happens so much in Japan that they coined the word karoshi to describe it.”
To maintain work-life balance, set appropriate boundaries and intentionally look for a career and a position that will allow you to live within those limits, Palmer says. “It is also a good idea to periodically reassess your work-life balance to see if you are where you want to be. A lot of people start out with good intentions, but it is very easy to find yourself off track if you are not taking inventory on a regular basis.”
There are several ways you can try to deal with job stress.
● To get more exercise in, the Mayo Clinic recommends taking “fitness breaks” during the day. Prioritize exercise on your calendar, and incorporate a brisk walk into your work day as part of regular breaks.
● Talk to your supervisor about your workload. If your supervisor isn’t open to dealing with your work stress, it may be time to take it to HR.
● Consider another job. There may come a point when leaving your job is the only thing that will make you feel better. Consider low-stress jobs as you look at your options.