Plenty of people hate their jobs. Exactly how many is hard to say, but depending on which study you believe, somewhere between 20% and 40% of workers can’t stand their jobs.
And to a lot of people this is just the way things are. Once when I was in the US to do a speech a young man told me that “of course I hate my job – that’s why they pay me to do it.” Many people still have the attitude that if you’re enjoying work, you’re not working hard enough, and that the only path to career success is to work long hours and sacrifice everything else in your life for a job that makes you miserable.
Well, it turns out that not only is this kind of thinking completely wrong (studies show that people who like their jobs are more productive and successful at work) but it can also make you sick.
Here are 5 ways that hating your job can harm your health. If any of these signs resonate with you, your body may be telling you to quit your job — or at least make some changes.
1: You’re gaining weight.
If you dislike your job and see the pounds piling on, the two could well be related. Studies have shown that an unhappy work life robs you of the energy you need to make good dietary choices and to exercise. Or to put it another way: After a long frustrating day at work, you are more likely to go for a tub of ice cream and less likely to go for a run.
2: You feel stressed and under appreciated.
Common wisdom has it that workplace stress comes from being too busy at work or working too many hours, but recently stress researchers are starting to rethink that assumption. Instead, they say, workplace stress comes from being in a state of negative affect most of the time at work, i.e. from feeling bad.
If you work really hard, but feel appreciated at work and see your efforts paying off, you’re not as likely to become stressed. On the other hand, if you’re being treated badly, or if nothing you do at work is ever recognized and you spend your work days in a more or less permanent state of frustration, worry and depression you can become stressed even if you only work 30 hours a week. And studies have shown that workplace stress harms the immune system and increases the risk of depression.
3: Your sex life is struggling.
One of the worst things about hating your job, is that it doesn’t stop at the end of the work day. For many people it spills over and affects their whole life.
One study showed that people who are unhappy and not rewarded at work have less satisfying sex lives. Researchers have found a clear link between a good relationship with your spouse and health.
4: You’re having trouble sleeping.
People who are miserable at work often find it harder to fall asleep or they don’t sleep as well. The frustrations of the work day tends to follow them home and worries keep going through their minds even when it’s time to sleep. This is bad for your health because sleep restores the body and strengthens the immune system.
5: You get sick often.
And finally, hating your job directly increases your risk of getting sick. One study of 20,000 US nurses found that nurses who were unhappy at work had a higher risk of getting sick, and we’re talking serious diseases like some forms of cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
All of this means that if you hate your job, you have to act on it. You have to either figure out how to improve your current work situation or you have to find another job where you can be happy.
The only option you don’t have is to do nothing, because hating your job can definitely make you sick – it can even kill you.
Alexander Kjerulf is the author of Happy Hour is 9 to 5: How to love your job, love your life and kick butt at work.