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Co-workers can be dangerous to your health

Telemarketing coworkers answer calls from their cubicles.
Telemarketing coworkers answer calls from their cubicles.
William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

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A study done over 20 years by researchers at Tel Aviv University reinforces what we all secretly knew: your co-workers are responsible for your health and happiness in the workplace. But did you know they could be responsible for your early death, too?

Although a small, longitudinal study – scientists followed 820 adults in several occupations over 20 years – the research faces us with the fact that our workplace has a huge impact on our health, revealing that employees who claim no “peer social support” were 2.4 times more likely to die during the course of the study, especially if they started employment between the ages of 38 and 43. Longer hours at your job or a mean boss didn’t affect longevity, however – just the quality of and relationship with co-workers. Other research has found that control matters as well; a study which analyzed 28,000 English civil service workers starting in 1967 revealed that men and women who had the most control over their workplace were the healthiest and happiest. Indeed, workers at the bottom of the hierarchy were four times more likely to die than the people at the top. The Israeli study, however, found that only men with control were healthiest and that women fared better who had little or no control over what they did in their jobs. So, take a look around you – like what you see? Is it time to smile at the person in the next cubicle instead of growling a hello in the morning?


Jonah Lehrer, contributing editor at Wired; author of How We Decide and Proust Was a Neuroscientist; contributor to the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine and WNYC’s Radiolab