Entries in Jobs (10)


Job Stress Linked to Increased Heart Attack Risk

Goodshoot/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- "It's true, hard work never killed anybody, but I figure, why take the chance?" former President Ronald Reagan quipped at the Gridiron Dinner in 1987.

Reagan may have been onto something. A new review of research, published Thursday in the journal Lancet, shows that job strain can increase the risk of a heart attack and death.

The findings may be particularly relevant today. As the country struggles with an unemployment rate of 8.1 percent, many people are facing tremendous pressure to perform well on the job.

A team of researchers from across Europe examined a total of 13 previous studies conducted between 1986 and 2006 that looked at job strain as a risk factor for heart attack and death. In total, the researchers evaluated data from about 200,000 patients for an average of 7.5 years, more than two times the number of patients studied in a previous review.

The researchers found that people who have highly demanding jobs and little freedom to make decisions are 23 percent more likely to have a heart attack. This was true regardless of gender, age and socioeconomic status.

Additionally, if we assume that job strain causes heart attacks, the risk of having a heart attack from your job is 3.4 percent, relatively low compared to that of smoking (36 percent) and not exercising (12 percent). This study, though, cannot definitively demonstrate a cause-effect relationship.

Scientists think that the increase in job stress triggers your brain to go into a defensive "fight-or-flight" mode that can take its toll on the body, and your heart.

"The [theory] that work stress influences heart health is more than 30 years old," said lead study author Mika Kivimaki of University College London. "[But] the pooling of published and unpublished studies allowed us to investigate [this] with greater precision than has been previously possible."

Dr. Redford Williams, director of the Behavioral Medicine Research Center at Duke University Medical Center, said the new research could leave many wondering what they can do in light of its findings.

"I think this is an area where changing the job situation may not be something that we have that much control over," said Williams, who was not involved with the study. "It may be in the long run that [we need] an alternative approach, rather than changing the work environment, that might focus on workers, try to train them in coping skills."

Williams said he has seen beneficial outcomes in highly stressed patients in his anger and stress management workshop LifeSkills, which provides training in coping skills and building supportive relationships.

He also stresses the importance of other psychosocial factors involved such as depression or stress at home that may play a role in risk of heart disease. Depression and anxiety are among the 10 most common diagnoses in primary care.

Moreover, many studies show that depression occurs more often in patients after a heart attack, creating a perpetual cycle of worsening severe heart disease and major depression.

Still, the American Heart Association considers stress a contributing risk factor to heart disease, but not a major risk factor. According to the AHA, healthy measures like quitting smoking, controlling cholesterol, exercising and maintaining a healthy weight are better ways of reducing your risk of coronary heart disease.

There are also major heart disease risk factors you cannot control, such as getting older, being male and your genes.

If there is one thing that is clear, it is that heart disease is a significant problem in the United States.

An American will have a coronary event about every 25 seconds, and someone will die of one about every minute, according to the updated 2012 AHA report on heart disease.

More than 16 million Americans have heart disease. It caused one of every six deaths in 2008, accounting for more than 400,000 deaths. Almost 800,000 Americans have a new heart attack each year, and 470,000 will have a repeat attack.

Study author Kivimaki agreed that people experiencing job strain would do well to address other more significant contributors to heart disease.

"High strain is associated with an elevated risk of developing heart disease, but this excess risk is probably smaller than previously thought," Kivimaki says. "For those with job strain, adopting a healthy lifestyle seems particularly important."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Can Paid Sick Leave Make You a Healthier Worker?

Comstock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- According to Uncle Sam, if you have access to paid sick leave at your job, you are likely to be healthier for it. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is out with a new study about just how beneficial this job perk really is.
Paid sick leave is a non-wage benefit optionally offered by employers in the U.S. In accordance with the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act, public agencies and private-sector employers must provide up to 12 weeks of paid or unpaid leave to eligible workers.  Despite the recorded benefits of paid sick leave, the CDC says only 40 million private-sector workers in the U.S. had access to this paid benefit in 2010.

Those whose employers offer paid sick leave are 28 percent less likely to suffer non-fatal work-related injuries, according to the CDC study which appears in the American Journal of Public Health.
The government agency says this research, which studied 38,000 private-sector workers, is the first of its kind to quantify the benefits of paid sick leave.  

The researchers found that sick or stressed workers who continue on the job increase their risk for suffering additional illness or workplace injury by 18 percent. Without paid sick leave, they keep working for fear of losing income.

"If fewer people work while they are sick, this could lead to safer operation and fewer injuries in the work place," lead researcher Abay Asfaw, Ph.D., said in a CDC statement.
Workers in such high-risk jobs as construction, manufacturing and agriculture benefited the most from paid leave, according to the research.

The study's lead researcher notes that if fewer people work while sick, workplace safety is enhanced for everyone. Employers may benefit from improved productivity due to reduced absences or unscheduled leave.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Tampa Doorman Logs No Sick Days in 26 Years

Hyatt(TAMPA, Fla.) --  If you are reading this right now at work with a tissue by your side, sniffling, achy but with just enough energy to trudge along, here’s some inspiration. Either that or you may find St. Petersburg resident Antonio de Sousa, 53, mildly annoying.

Every day for 26 years and six months de Sousa, 53, has put on his uniform -- shorts, a T-shirt and his smile -- and shown up for work every single day.

“I didn’t realize I wasn’t sick that long,” says de Sousa. "I was shocked when I started thinking about it. But I love what I do.”

De Sousa is a doorman for the Hyatt Regency in downtown Tampa. Whether rain or sleet -- well it doesn’t really sleet in Tampa so we will skip that and the snow part -- or whatever the condition outside, no matter how he feels, he has never taken any of the sick days his job gives annually.

“I’m a very reliable person. Even if I’m sick, I just drink coffee and take medicine that night. I think it’s because of the people I work around and people generally just cheer me up.”

De Sousa says he has been healthy for as long as he can remember. Before moving to Tampa he lived in France and met his wife while she was doing missionary work there. When he married her, he came to the U.S. to visit his ailing mother in-law and he never left. In France he never called out sick. He started a new streak with Hyatt that has spanned three decades.

“Even when I had my first job in France I didn’t call in sick. I missed a day once because it snowed, but it wasn’t my fault. I had to give my brother and sister a ride to work through the snow. I showed up to work about 90 minutes late, but my bosses were not there,” he jokes.

He is the type of employee every boss wishes they had, and the type of co-worker everybody finds difficult to emulate.

His co-workers say he waves and smiles at everybody. They marvel at how he kept the streak going for so long.

“I don’t know how he does it. Sure he may not get sick,” says a colleague who didn’t want to be identified. “But what about those days every so often when you just don’t have it in you. He is always happy.”

De Sousa admits the warm Florida weather has helped him continue his streak but he is not judgmental of others, including his two children, who he says have stayed home from school on occasion.

“Everybody is different. I wash my hands if I can every 30 minutes,” he says. “I don’t wait to get sick. I take one day at a time and everybody should too.”

The average American calls in sick around three days a year, so don’t feel so bad. If you are at work, and feeling a little down but you made it in anyway, congrats. Your streak is just beginning.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Boredom, Constant Cheer, Cynicism and Other Job Hazards

Christopher Robbins/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Paul Spector was never as bored as the summer he spent after high school working in a contact lens factory. His job was cutting each contact lens out of a sheet of plastic.

Now a professor studying industrial and occupational psychology at the University of South Florida, Spector said boredom is underappreciated as a workplace stressor, along with a host of other on-the-job strains that can drive people crazy. Often these stressors can be just as consuming as being overworked and overwhelmed.

“Being chronically bored means being unhappy and stressed,” said Spector. “If you don’t have enough to do or what you do is monotonous, that can make you miserable, which can be very stressful.”

Being required to slap on a happy face, too, can be a strain for workers, such as those in the customer service industry. Researchers call this work emotional labor, and say that it frequently leads to burnout.

“Not only do you have the pressure of doing your job, but there’s pressure to make every customer feel valued and happy, which can be hard and really draining,” said Ben Dattner, an organizational psychologist and author of the book The Blame Game.

A survey of 200 British customer service employees found that the effort of being constantly cheerful left these workers feeling emotionally exhausted and cynical.

The poor economy may compound workplace stress, as the prospect of a steady paycheck keeps people in jobs that don’t match their skills or interests.

“You have people with fairly high-level skills who can’t find jobs in their profession, so they wind up underemployed and bored,” Spector said.

Occasional boredom is unavoidable, of course, but the danger of chronic boredom lies in the unhealthy habits that workers tend to pick up to keep themselves entertained. Scientists at the University of Central Lancashire in Britain surveyed 100 British office workers and found that a quarter of them suffer from chronic boredom. How did they deal with the stress of monotony? Many reported turning to extra coffee breaks, chocolate binges or regular post-work alcohol to take the edge off.

That doesn’t surprise Martin Binks, chief executive officer of Binks Behavioral Health in Durham, N.C., who said people find all kinds of unhealthy ways to alleviate their boredom at work, like repeatedly hitting the snack and soda machines or taking frequent cigarette breaks.

Rather than downing a 400-calorie latte at the coffee shop, Binks suggests that when boredom strikes, workers can try switching to a different task, taking a quick walk or even making trips to the bathroom to wash your hands or face.

“Repeated bathroom visits are better than repeated snack machine visits,” he said.

Employees who find themselves busy and bored all at once may need a more long-term solution. Dattner said people who are bored with their work should consider talking with their employer about expanding or changing their role on the job or asking for more training.

“It may help to think about a more effective or efficient way to do what you’re doing,” Dattner said. “To some extent, making yourself obsolete by coming up with a process improvement could be risky but, on the other hand, might earn you the gratitude of the organization or superiors.”

Experts say certain methods of stress relief should be avoided at all costs: creating drama with coworkers, taking long lunches or spending too much time on Facebook or YouTube are usually not good ideas.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New Programs Offering Workers More Care on the Job

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MENOMENEE FALLS, Wis.) -- Fifty-year-old Debbie Germer has been a machinist at the Harley-Davidson’s Motorcycle Plant in Menomenee Falls, Wis., for the past 12 years.

It is hard, physically demanding work, especially for older workers.

“Some of that stuff -- like the spine rolls -- weigh 60 pounds. And you have to lift that up into a machine,” Germer said.

Last September, Germer partially tore a tendon in her shoulder. Now, twice a week, before her work shift, she gets physical therapy at her work site. And twice a week she works out at a gym, also located at her work site.

The 1,000 assembly plant workers can drop by before or after their shifts, or even on their breaks, to work out at work.

It’s part of an effort by Harley-Davidson to get their employees to shape up so it’s less likely they’ll break down.

Workers over 50 are more vulnerable than younger workers to injuries that keep them out of work -- sometimes permanently.

“I guess the fitter you are, not just the longer you can work, the less chance of hurting yourself,” Germer said.

If a worker does suffer a strain or sprain, there’s medical aid from a doctor, nurse or physical therapist on site.

When asked if workers last longer (to put it bluntly) when they’re physically fit, John Lowry, general manager of Powertrain Operations at Harley-Davidson, responded, “If you get a debilitating injury that could be the end of your career. So if we can stay out in front of those injuries or make sure they don’t happen, then we can prolong a person’s employment indefinitely.”

Duke Electric Utility in North Carolina takes a similar approach.

All 2,000 of its line technicians begin each work day stretching.  The aim is to prevent soft-tissue injuries like strained and pulled muscles.

At Duke Electric, more than half of their line technicians are over 50 -- and replacing an experienced worker is difficult. It takes up to eight years to fully train someone for the job.

“These are very valuable folks and we want to keep them working as long as we can -- for our benefit and for theirs,” said Jim Stanley, senior VP of Duke Electric.

Both Duke Electric and Harley-Davidson believe their fitness programs are paying dividends: both report declining numbers of injuries, fewer lost work days and older, more experienced, workers working longer.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Could Health Care Cuts Curtail Fastest Growing Jobs Sector?

Creatas Images/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- As the Super Committee combs the federal budget for health savings, potential cuts to health aide providers could also curtail one of America’s fastest growing job sectors.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects job growth for home health aides to increase by 46 percent according to their 20 year outlook.

The bureau also projects that the home health aide sector alone will add half a million jobs by 2018.

But those numbers rely on current levels of government spending as budget cutters in Washington are looking for innovative ways to cut health care spending while dampening the blow back from any unpopular decisions.

One way that the government can choose to reduce spending without directly affecting access for those Medicare beneficiaries is to cut payments to providers.

“You have to weigh all of these considerations,” said Edwin Park who is the Vice President for Health Policy at the left leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.  ”You have to try to reduce the federal deficit and gleam possible efficiencies in the programs without affecting beneficiary care.  Looking at provider rates is one way to go.”

While there is no specific indication as to what the Super Committee has in store for Medicare payments, a report by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission released in March does point to home health care as an area where efficiencies could be released.

“The Commission finds that the home health benefit has significant vulnerabilities that need to be addressed urgently and recommends policies to strengthen program integrity, improve payment accuracy, and establish beneficiary incentives.”

Specifically, the commission found that providers frequently encouraged patients to make multiple visits as a way to increase the number of times that the provider could bill Medicare for treating one condition.

The commission also pointed to the fact that recipients of government subsidized home health care aide do not contribute in any way towards the expense of the visit leading the commission to question the patients incentive to ration care.

Still some advocates say that forcing seniors to cost share with Medicare would be unfair especially when so much money is lost to Medicare fraud.

“Our approach there is avoiding across the board cuts that hurt everyone and the only people that are advantaged by across the board cuts are pirates and the crooks,” said Val Halamandaris who is the President of the National Association of Home Care & Hospice.

The 2010 health care law already slashes provider payments but more could be on the way.

Many home health care providers are looking to the future, have accepted the need for reform and are bracing for a new payment structures.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Mr. Mom: Recession Shifting Men's Roles

Stay-at-home dad Wayne Moyer, shown with son Matt, says his bike is his "manly escape." (Courtesy of Wayne Moyer)(LAS VEGAS) -- Wayne Moyer, a 39-year-old father of three, has a new appreciation for stay-at-home parents. After losing his job in 2009, Moyer entered full-time fatherhood -- a change that has challenged his stamina and his ego.

"The stress of work is far less intrusive than being a stay-at-home dad," said Moyer, who lives in Womelsdorf, Pa. "But I think the hardest part for most of us men is to give up the role of being the one who earns the most money to our wives. It just feels completely unnatural."

Like many men of his generation, Moyer was raised almost exclusively by his mom. But the dismal economy is forcing families to reorganize resources and rethink roles. And men like Moyer -- once breadwinners -- are reinventing themselves as caregivers.

"They're not providing money, but they're providing this labor that wives have been doing for years," said Kristen Myers, an associate professor of sociology at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill.

Myers and doctoral student Ilana Demantas have been studying the recession's impact on the so-called "breadwinning ideology." And what the uncovered after interviews with 20 recently unemployed men whose domestic roles have been turned upside-down was an unprecedented shift in attitudes about gender.

"They take care of the kids; they go shopping; they clean. These men have really embraced this new realm that they wouldn't have chosen," said Myers, who with Dementas presented the study findings at the American Sociological Associations annual meeting in Las Vegas. "They hope it's temporary and they can go back to work. But in meantime, they're changing their perspective."

But the transition has been far from seamless. Many of the men interviewed for the study initially felt like the loss in income translated to a loss in masculinity.

"Not only have they lost their jobs, they've also lost an important aspect of how to be men," said Myers, adding that many of the men interviewed felt defeated and depressed. "But they're making the most of it and learning new things. It's an opportunity to live richer, although poorer lives."

Moyer admits that being Mr. Mom has challenged his masculinity. So he takes every opportunity to get out on his Victory Vision tour bike -- a motorcycle he won in a raffle six weeks ago.

"It's my manly escape," he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Stress of Rude Co-Worker Can Affect Home Life

BananaStock/Thinkstock(WACO, Texas) -- When it comes to dealing with a rude co-worker, recent research suggests the stress can be so intense that it can affect relationships outside of work and even lead a person's partner to take those same feelings into his or her workplace.

"The stress impacts the marital satisfaction of both partners," said Merideth Ferguson, the study's author and an assistant professor of management and entrepreneurship at the Baylor University Hankamer School of Business in Waco, Texas. "The rudeness jumps over to affect their partner's workplace and creates distraction and distress there."

Ferguson said she is unsure exactly how it happens, but theorizes that at least one reason is that the stress affects a person's ability to handle household responsibilities and in turn, that person's partner must take on more of the demands, which could spill over into the partner's work life.

"It's often a combination of problems at work that spill over to the home and problems at home that spill over to work," said Joshua Klapow, a clinical psychologist the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health. "It can be hard to tease them out."

Klapow was not involved in the research.

Other psychologists not involved with the study say dealing with an ill-mannered co-worker is very difficult, but also very necessary to avoid detrimental effects on physical and emotional well-being.

"It can lead to anxiety, depression and other problems," said Nadine Kaslow, professor and vice chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta. "Chronic work stress is not good for one's mental or physical health. It can lead to headaches and stomach aches and other physical ailments."

Being constantly disrespected can also lead to a temporary loss of self-esteem, which can also affect a person's mood, she said.

Ferguson said research looking into the effect of rude co-workers on the family is just beginning. This study only involved 190 subjects and didn't control for certain factors, such as the ones that may affect how stress crosses over from work to family.

"However, these findings emphasize the notion that organizations must realize the far-reaching effects of co-worker incivility and its impact on employees and their families," she said.

The research was published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Job Satisfaction Declining for Nurses, Survey Says

JupiterImages/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) -- Job satisfaction appears to be on the decline in the nursing field.  A survey conducted by AMN Healthcare, a provider of healthcare staffing and management, says that nearly 25 percent of registered nurses  say they plan to search for other employment when the economy recovers.

AMN Healthcare reviewed the responses of 1,002 nursing professionals, and despite nurse career satisfaction being high at 74 percent, 32 percent say they will take steps over the next two to three years to exit their field by retiring, looking for non-nursing positions or reducing their workload by switching to part-time or less-demanding roles.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Stress on Rise Amid Financial, Employment Concerns

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(YONKERS, N.Y.) - A new report suggests that stress is on the rise in the U.S. as Americans grow more concerned about their finances.

The Consumer Reports Trouble Tracker index jumped from 54.2 last month to 58.7, which represents the third straight month that the index, which measures a household's overall financial difficulties, has increased.
According to the report, 9.7 percent of Americans have missed a payment on a major bill, with 3.2 percent missing their mortgage payment. Both figures have increased from a year ago.

In a separate Consumer Reports survey, 6.7 percent of respondents said they had lost their job in the past 30 days, with just 5.2 percent of those getting a new job in that time.

The combined factors of job and financial strain suggest a rise in stress, according to Consumer Reports Stress Index. The index rose to 59.3 in February compared to 55.4 a month ago.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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