How can I focus on hard work

Is my job killing me? - How work reduces life expectancy

As the saying goes, work is half of life. But what if work steals the other half? Earning a livelihood is a constant burden for most people. This can be done through hard physical work, for example in manual jobs, or through tiring activities in a factory. And those who sit in the office chair all day are not immune to health-damaging stresses.

What should you watch out for if you want to live as long as possible after decades of work? And what about the rumor that high-earning people live longer than people on low wages?

Higher income = higher life expectancy?

At first glance, there seems to be something to the statement that high earners live longer statistically than those in the lower income brackets. The study says “People with high Income live longer ”from the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) that women over 65 in a wealthy household have a life expectancy that is three years longer - men even five years longer. An American study from 2014 also found a connection between high incomes and longevity.

Do numbers on bank statements make people live longer? Certainly not. The study by DIW indicates that income is not causally related to life expectancy, but merely points to other factors. The scientists attribute the lower life expectancy in low-wage households to stresses such as financial scarcity, lack of social networks, leisure activities and education as well as hard physical demands.

A Danish study from 2018 puts the inequality of income and life expectancy even more into perspective. It takes into account the fact that many people change their income bracket in the course of their lives. If you take this into account, the differences between the life expectancies of high earners and low earners are halved. So it is much more the extent of the stresses during a working life than the size of the paycheck that determines the length of life expectancy.

Physical and mental stress

Physical activity can lead to stress symptoms and a shorter life expectancy. In trades, in the garden and in the field or in other challenging environments, problems with back and intervertebral discs, cardiovascular and joint wear and tear often arise. Those who do a lot of physical work have to live with the likelihood that excessive stress can lead to incapacity for work at some point.

Consequences of mental overwork - stress, burnout, karōshi

Intellectual work, such as that performed by millions of people in offices every day, can lead to physical ailments that affect life expectancy. Some problems are back pain, eye damage (office eye), headaches and cardiovascular problems.

Office work is above all psychologically demanding. Time and pressure to perform, arguments with colleagues and superiors and increasing responsibilities can lead to chronic stress symptoms. The consequences are constant fatigue, mood swings, irritability, lack of productivity, poor concentration and pessimistic thoughts, up to and including depression. When several of these symptoms become so severe that one no longer feels able to work, it is called burnout syndrome.

Long working days without breaks and excessive overtime increase the risk of overwork and burnout. Extreme cases in Japan show that this does not only mean temporary malaise, where the hard working conditions repeatedly lead to deaths. The Japanese even have their own word for it - Karōshi. A case of a 31-year-old journalist in Tokyo became known in 2017, who died of a heart attack after 159 hours of overtime in one month - death from overwork.

Insufficient Sleep - The Shift Worker Syndrome

One of the biggest mistakes someone with a heavy workload can make in everyday life is neglecting to sleep. Lack of sleep leads to decreased brain performance and has numerous negative effects. This means you are less concentrated and more prone to mistakes and accidents when you are not getting rested. Night shifts disrupt the natural biological rhythm, which affects neurotransmitters such as melatonin and serotonin, which are important for mental fitness. Difficulty falling asleep and chronic fatigue are the consequences. So it is a fallacy to believe that you would be more productive if you invest overtime in your work and then subtract it from the sleep you need.

Shift workers, such as care providers, who also have to work at night, suffer most from the negative effects of lack of sleep. Studies have shown that frequent night shifts increase the risk of death by as much as ten percent. Cardiovascular disease and even lung cancer have been linked to higher mortality rates among care shift workers. The nervous system is also more stressed at night, which can lead to inflammatory reactions and changes in the fat and sugar metabolism.

What can you do about stress in the workplace?

Take time out

If you have the feeling that your work is too much for you, you should rethink your daily and weekly rhythm. What are the worst days to get out of bed and when do you have the most problems falling asleep? The establishment of fixed rest periods, when even the smartphone is not available, can help to find one's own rhythm again. Regular meditation is something that costs nothing except a few minutes and can recharge the mental batteries.

In addition to daily rest breaks, you should take sufficiently longer breaks. Many people do not even use up their promised vacation days and are amazed that they are constantly so exhausted. The time-outs should be used to relax as much as possible. If you still have a bad feeling about the workplace afterwards - be it due to the excessive workload or toxic colleagues, you should ask yourself whether you should not change jobs completely and try something new.

to do sports

Most work - physical or mental - affects the back and spine and the cardiovascular system at some point. To counteract this, it is important to be physically active on a regular basis. It doesn't necessarily have to be competitive sport, even simple stretching and stretching exercises increase flexibility and prevent damage to muscles and nerves. Systems like yoga or Pilates also have a stress-reducing effect. A few laps in the swimming pool improve your stamina, are easy on your back and do wonders for a bad mood. And building muscle in the gym is also great for your constitution.

Maintain good contacts

Especially if you have a number of other obligations after work, you run the risk of not only overworking yourself, but also of neglecting your social contacts outside of your job. People who are close to you are the most important pillars when things go bad. If you only communicate with people from the work machine, it is easier to do more work than is good for you. It is therefore important to move away from the high-performing work group in a separate circle of friends.

Seek professional help

The job is overwhelming and you don't really want to get up in the morning and go to work? Or your back just doesn't keep up, but you don't know how to continue? Do you work to live or do you only live to work? When the stresses get so severe that it is slowly leading to burnout or a real existential crisis, it is time to seek professional help. There are psychologists and therapists who specialize in people with high workloads and with whom you can find individual solutions. The family doctor can clarify the physical symptoms and then pass them on to specialists.