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Over 3 million Massachusetts residents are employed in thousands of workplaces throughout the Commonwealth. Perhaps you’re one of them.

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Despite the varying nature of our jobs, there are common themes that work plays in our lives: it provides income and often other economic benefits, and for many of us, a sense of meaning as well as social support. Clearly, work is vital to our well-being. That being said, work environments, including work organization factors, can negatively affect our health.

Examples of direct impacts that work can have on us include:

Examples of indirect impacts that work can have on us include:

  • Influence on our lifestyle behaviors, such as eating habits, sleep, and leisure time exercise, particularly from factors out of our control like shift work, long work hours, and high demands.
  • Effect on our ability to manage chronic health conditions like diabetes or asthma.
  • Effect on family-work imbalance, which can be another source of stress.
  • Influence on our access to healthcare, and ability to care for dependents, depending on leave and other benefits

And the risk for these impacts can affect some more than others: low wage workers, for example, disproportionately have jobs that offer little opportunity to influence how or when they work.

In short, we need to consider the central role that work plays in our lives in order to improve public health and reduce health inequities.  As a start, Massachusetts has added questions to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)—an annual telephone survey—about:

  • Occupation, the kind of work someone does for a living; and
  • Industry, what someone’s employer or business does.

A recent DPH report, Putting Data to Work: 23 Health Indicators by Occupation and Industry (PDF) (Word), presents our latest findings on key measures of health for Massachusetts residents by occupation and industry groups. A few highlights are below.

InsuranceGraph

Workers in Construction & Extraction, Service-Food Prep & Serving Related, Service-Building & Grounds Cleaning Maintenance, and Transportation & Material Moving were significantly more likely than all workers to have NO health insurance (indicated by darker bars); this was less likely among Professional workers as well as those in Management, Business & Financial Operations and Office & Administrative Support (indicated by lighter bars).

 

ObesityGraph

Those workers in Wholesale Trade, Transportation & Warehousing, and Public Administration were significantly more likely than all workers to be classified as obese (indicated by darker bars). Those employed in Professional, Scientific & Technical services, Educational Services, and Arts, Entertainment & Recreation were less likely than all other workers to be classified as obese (indicated by lighter bars).

 

You can view more charts like this on indicators related to health access, health outcomes, and health behaviors, in the full report (PDF) (Word).  We encourage readers to consider the potential impact of work organization and work exposures on their health and health behaviors.

What about you? Have you ever thought about how work might affect your well-being, either positively or negatively? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Written By:


Health Communications Specialist in the Occupational Health and Safety Program.

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