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Make Friends at Work, Live Longer

Make Friends at Work, Live Longer

Feeling isolated in your cubicle? For your health’s sake, you may want to hit the break room right away. According to recent research, building support networks and friendships in the workplace may help you live longer.

In the study conducted by researchers in Tel Aviv, participants who reported they had little or no emotional support in the workplace were 2.4 times more likely to die over the 20-year study than those who reported stronger bonds with co-workers.

Back in 1988, the researchers recruited 820 adults from a variety of work fields who underwent full health check-ups; people with mental or physical health issues were excluded at the beginning of the study. The remaining participants answered detailed questions about their jobs and interactions with peer-workers and supervisors. By 2008, when the study ended, 58 of the participants had died. Many of those people who died reported less support in the office. Surprisingly, the participants’ relationships with peers was a strong indicator of death, while relationships with supervisors and bosses had no impact on mortality.

Another surprising factor– the perceived level of control in the workplace — affected mortality, but it differed significantly for men and women. Men who reported they had more control over their work tasks had a lower risk of dying during the study. Women, on the other hand, who reported more control had a higher risk of dying during the 20-year period — in fact, a 70 percent increase in risk. One of the author’s study Sharon Toker, professor in the organizational behavior department in Tel Aviv University, suggested that this could have something to do with changing gender roles in the work environment. Women who have more control in the work place generally hold higher-up positions and may face more “masculine social environments.” They also may be more likely to face the pressure of playing dual roles, such as mother and executive worker, Toker explained to a New York Times reporter.

The research is admittedly a correlation, not causation, as it would be difficult to isolate certain factors in the study as the cause of death. However, the correlation alone suggests it may be valuable to invest in social ties at work, and perhaps in addition, monitor stress levels.

According to the New York Times, Dr. Toker suggested that companies should strive to foster more “socially supportive workplaces by encouraging face-to-face exchanges.”

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Megan Zehnder

Megan is an editor and producer for Care2's Healthy Living. Her main priorities are to live simply and build meaningful relationships with the people in her life. She loves to write and talk about environmental issues, healthy living, and women's rights. Beyond that, her interests change daily, but eating and cooking vegetarian food is always a favorite.


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12:59PM PDT on Mar 26, 2012

I knew it. Work can kill you. Long live Maynard G. Krebs!

7:24PM PST on Dec 15, 2011

Where I work, you may not even know half the people you work with, even if you have worked with them for years.

7:23PM PST on Dec 15, 2011

It is nothing new that having less stress in the workplace would contribute to living longer, & by having a friend at work would help lessen the stress.
But in call centers, breaks rarely coincide with the people you would prefer to spend them with, & you have to take your breaks when you can/when they are assigned to you, not when you choose to do so

4:29PM PST on Nov 10, 2011


4:13AM PDT on Aug 20, 2011

Thank you

12:27PM PDT on Aug 17, 2011

But now they're telling us that being a mean coworker earns you more money. Like people needed an incentive to be rude to one another.

9:51PM PDT on Aug 13, 2011

I don't agree with making friends at work; I have a very stressful and demanding job that I don't take home with me. I am friendly with co-workers but have my own social network outside of my co-workers. I don't want to combine work and off-time, I would be afraid that social events with co-workers would turn into talking about work.

7:51PM PDT on Aug 13, 2011


5:26PM PDT on Aug 12, 2011

This study is admittedly correlational rather than causational by design; & that factor alone would be enough to question the study findings. While I agree that it is probably beneficial health-wise to have a friend or two at work, I puzzle at the statement that relationships with bosses & supervisors had "no impact on mortality". Everyone knows that a boss' personnel management style can either make or break the affect of a work environment. They can either motivate people to work together as a cohesive team or they can render their staff members to exist in unsupported isolation or intolerable competitive stress. Supervisors have the authority & power to make your life a living hell if they so choose. I have experienced some bosses who would cause my blood pressure to spike just by being in the same room with them. Retirement brought blessing in being able to leave behind such arbitrary slave drivers who appeared to care little about the welfare of those who had the misfortune of having to work under their direction. Supervisors have "no impact on mortality"? That's pure bologna & poppycock. The only recourse you have is to outlive the suckers!!!! LOL!!!

11:06PM PDT on Aug 11, 2011

While I agree friends may help in mortal longevity, having them at work has in more than one instans led to problems...people can be as clique minded as a bunch of high school "meangirls"

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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