anthropology · brain · emotion · happiness · health · mental health · psychology

Jobs, including losing one, can kill you

Dos albañiles desempleados esperan ofertas de ...
Losing your job can have a profound effect on your physical health. Image via Wikipedia

My new year’s resolution this year was to start taking better care of myself; more sleep, healthier food (no more sneaking chocolate out of the secretary’s candy dish!) and getting regular exercise if for nothing else just to move and remember what it feels like to use your muscles.
But up until recently I had never acknowledged some of the things that had caused me the most stress. One of them was changing jobs after seven years and becoming a freelance writer/editor, while also moving away from a city I’d lived in for that long as well. That loss of identity, of sense of self and how you fit into the world, can have a profound effect on mental and physical health, as one New York Times article recently discussed, focused more on job loss, but very similar emotionally and the physical repercussions:

The first to have a heart attack was George Kull Jr., 56, a millwright who worked for three decades at the steel mills in Lackawanna, N.Y. Three weeks after learning that his plant was closing, he suddenly collapsed at home… Less than a month later, Don Turner, 55, a crane operator who had started at the mills as a teenager, was found by his wife, Darlene, slumped on a love seat, stricken by a fatal heart attack.

It is impossible to say exactly why these men, all in relatively good health, had heart attacks within weeks of one another. But interviews with friends and relatives of Mr. Kull and Mr. Turner, and with Mr. Smith, suggest that the trauma of losing their jobs might have played a role.

A growing body of research suggests that layoffs can have profound health consequences. One 2006 study by a group of epidemiologists at Yale found that layoffs more than doubled the risk of heart attack and stroke among older workers. Another paper, published last year by Kate W. Strully, a sociology professor at the State University of New York at Albany, found that a person who lost a job had an 83 percent greater chance of developing a stress-related health problem, like diabetes, arthritis or psychiatric issues. In perhaps the most sobering finding, a study published last year found that layoffs can affect life expectancy…

Continue reading at the New York Times.

It was hard to explain to people why I wasn’t thrilled and exhilarated to be living with my husband again, out of a seemingly dead end job and taking my life into my own hands. I wasn’t thrilled or exhilarated. And I wasn’t even scared in that good kind of way; I was just scared and isolated. At least now I know I wasn’t as weird as I was made to feel.