By Andrej Kovacevic
Here in the UK, we benefit from having one of the world’s best public health services. Still, despite the progress that the NHS has made over the years in helping us live longer, healthier lives, there are still several stubborn national health issues that persist. If you were to check the NHS’s list of the top five causes of premature death, you’d find one major thing in common with all of them – they are all, to some degree, related to unhealthy habits, stress, and poor diet. They’re also all preventable, to certain extents.
The data begs the question: what is it that’s causing these stubborn health issues to persist in a wealthy country with a well-run public health service? For many people, the answer may be as simple as it is surprising. It’s that they work in an industry or career that promotes poor health habits, a nonexistent work/life balance, and endless amounts of stress.
To help illuminate the topic, here’s a look at careers that can be bad for your health and wellbeing, why that is, and what you can do about it. By the end of this article, you should be able to answer the question: Is my career choice killing me?
As of 2018, statistics indicated that there were approximately 977,000 sales and marketing professionals working within the UK. That’s a significant slice of the about 32.2 million strong British workforce. The bad news for those people is that they’re in the kind of job that’s notorious for poor health outcomes.
First, there’s the economic stress that comes with commission-based pay schemes. Then there’s the physical toll created by long work hours and a hyper-competitive environment. All of it adds up to a career that’s terrible for your health. A study confirmed that salespeople 45 and older were at much higher risk of heart disease and stroke, which are both on the NHS list of premature death causes.
Administrative Support Staff
As anyone that has ever worked in an office can tell you, administrative support staffs are the all-stars of any business operation. They’re the ones dotting all of the I’s and crossing all of the T’s and making sure that all work gets done right and on time. All of that valuable work comes at a great cost to their health, however. That’s because office workers don’t get enough exercise, which increases their risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. If all of that weren’t bad enough, office workers tend to have lengthy commutes, which the ONS has linked to poor personal wellbeing.
You would think that employees of the NHS would know better than most what it takes to lead a healthy lifestyle, having completed all of the coursework it takes to get certified in their fields. Despite their deep knowledge of the subject, however, it appears that the NHS isn’t protecting the health of it’s’ employees very well at all.
A recent survey indicated that workplace stress at the NHS is at an all-time high – resulting in two of every five staff members falling ill from stress alone last year. The poor environment is driving many to consider leaving their profession altogether, which would further damage the health outcomes of patients all over the nation.
The Common Factors
As you may have already surmised, all of the unhealthiest careers had some things in common. They all featured some mix of the following negative factors:
- Long Periods of Sedentary Behaviour
- Extensive Overtime / Overwork
- High-Pressure Work Environment
- Lack of Workplace Health Support
If you are in a career that shares any or all of these traits, it is certain to have a negative impact on your health. The only way to remedy that, short of switching your career, is to take specific steps to combat the health issues created by your job.
Mitigating the Impact
Unless you happen to be independently wealthy or otherwise able to quit your current job, you’ll need to create a strategy to improve your health in spite of your career’s negative influence. The good news is that it isn’t all that hard to do it. First and foremost, you have to get yourself moving. Make it a point to work some exercise into your daily routine by:
- Using work breaks to take short walks
- Taking the stairs whenever possible
- Seeking in-person communications with co-workers
- Doing simple stretching and flexing at your desk
You’ll be happy to know that it doesn’t take much to avoid the worst effects of sedentary behaviour. A scant 150 minutes of physical activity per week can be enough to keep your heart healthy, and you can fit in as much more as your schedule permits.
To deal with stress, you will need to develop coping strategies that may not come naturally to you. To begin with, it’s essential that you do whatever it takes to start getting the right amount of sleep before each workday. That will put you in the right frame of mind to deal with whatever the day throws at you. After that, you must learn to:
- Practice sound time management
- Learn to delegate tasks
- Let go of perfectionism
- Sharpen your communications skills
- Know when to ask for help
As easy as all of that sounds, learning to cope with stress without letting it destroy your health is one of the most difficult tasks one can undertake. The simple fact of the matter is that humans are not designed to undergo prolonged periods of stress – we’re designed to flee from it.
If you can incorporate some of the above strategies into your workplace situation, though, you’ll feel much better and get through each workday with far less mental and emotional taxation.
Putting it All Together
If you’ve made it this far, you should now be able to figure out if the career you’ve chosen is, in fact, killing you. You should also know that it doesn’t have to stay that way. With some minor behavioural changes and some decent coping strategies, you can keep your current job and be a healthier and happier person than you otherwise would be – and that’s an outcome that everyone should be striving for.
Andrej Kovacevic is a professional writer and freelance investigative journalist. If there’s a new and exciting trend, there’s a good chance Andrej is writing about it somewhere out there.