Mental And Physical Health In The Workplace: The More You Like Your Co-Workers And Job, The Healthier You'll Be

The more you like your job and co-workers, the better off your health will be, suggests recent research published in Society for Personality and Social Psychology.

Researchers reviewed two decades' worth of earlier studies on the connection between our health and the relationships we forge in the workplace as well as how deeply we identify with the job itself. They found people who either had strong connections with their fellow employees or their job experienced positive but varying health benefits. A well-liked workplace was better associated with greater well-being than it was with reducing stress; and people’s psychological health was more impacted than their physical health. The link between identifying with a job and positive health became weaker the more women were in the workplace, however.

"This study is the first large-scale analysis showing that organizational identification is related to better health," said lead author Dr. Niklas Steffens of the University of Queensland in Australia in a statement. "These results show that both performance and health are enhanced to the extent that workplaces provide people with a sense of 'we' and 'us.'"

Hands in The more you like your job and co-workers, the healthier you'll feel, finds new research. Pixabay, Public Domain

The review spanned 58 studies of over 19,000 people that were performed across 15 countries and included many different types of careers and occupations. Regardless of the job, though, the positive relationships between health and work remained. But Steffens and his colleagues were surprised that women didn’t benefit as much from identifying with their jobs as men did.

"This was a finding that we had not predicted and, in the absence of any prior theorizing, we can only guess what gives rise to this effect," explained Steffens. "However, one of the reasons may relate to the fact that we know from other research that there are still many workplaces that have somewhat 'masculine' cultures. This could mean that even when female employees identify with their team or organization, they still feel somewhat more marginal within their team or organization."

Though the review looked at various types of studies, there are still several important questions to be answered and theories to be explored, Steffens added.

"One important area where we need to do much more work is making use of this research in applied settings." he said. "In particular, it is important to examine whether health may actually precede changes in performance and what role identification plays in this."

Finding subtle ways to reverse or prevent burnout, particularly for already stressful jobs in the medical and education field, would no doubt be a huge boon to more than just the workers themselves. Research has shown both patients and children suffer when their medical providers and teachers experience burnout, respectively.

Source: Steffens N, Haslam S, Schuh S, et al. A Meta-Analytic Review of Social Identification and Health in Organizational Contexts. Society for Personality and Social Psychology. 2016.

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