Can Finding a Job You Love Improve Your Health?

by Derek Loosvelt | October 21, 2016

  • My Vault

The answer is yes, say experts.

In a recent New York Times "Well" article, several "experts in nutrition, obesity, cardiology and other health disciplines" were asked the question, "If you had just one piece of health advice for people in their 20s, what would it be?" Most of the answers weren't all that surprising, as nearly all involved good exercise and eating habits such as: learn how to cook (which "will save you money and help you to eat healthy"), eat your veggies ("nutrition science is complicated and debated endlessly, but the basics are well established: eat plenty of plant foods, go easy on junk foods"), and adopt a post-party exercise routine ("if you engage in a lot of drinking and snacking, ensure you exercise a lot to offset all those extra calories from Friday to Sunday").

However, there was one piece of advice that, at a glance, was suprising. Though, upon further reflection, it makes perfect sense, and might be the most important advice of all, as it could lead to you easily partaking in all of the other advice given. And that piece of advice was this: find a job you love.

Here's what Ohio State University sociology professor Hui Zheng had to say about that:

Ohio State University research found that work life in your 20s can affect your midlife mental health. People who are less happy in their jobs are more likely to report depression, stress and sleep problems and have lower overall mental health scores. If I can give just one piece of health advice for 20-year-olds, I would suggest finding a job they feel passionate about. This passion can keep them motivated, help them find meaning in life, and increase expectations about their future. That in turn will make them more engaged in life and healthier behaviors, which will have long term benefits for their well-being.

Of course, finding a job you're passionate about isn't all that easy. And the first step could be the most difficult of all: finding that one something that you are passionate about. With respect to that search, this might help (think of it as a map as to how to find your passion; it comes from an economics professor at Cornell): 

The happiness literature has identified one of the most deeply satisfying human psychological states to be one called "flow." It occurs when you are so immersed in an activity that you lose track of the passage of time. If you can land a job that enables you to experience substantial periods of flow, you will be among the most fortunate people on the planet. What's more, as the years pass, you will almost surely develop deep expertise at whatever it is you've been doing.

But what about $$$? you might be asking (especially if you're a parent of someone in their 20s and you are worried that passion does not quite equal a well-paying job). Well, you shouldn't fear. At least, not that much you shouldn't.

There is, of course, no guarantee that you’ll become the best at what you choose to do, or that even if you do you’ll find practical ways to extend your reach enough to earn a big paycheck. But by choosing to concentrate on a task you love, you’ll enjoy the considerable proportion of your life that you spend at work, which is much more than billions of others can say.
Again, you'll have bills to pay, so salary matters. But social science findings establish clearly that once you have met your basic obligations, it's possible to live a very satisfying life even if you don’t earn a lot of money.

And, of course, it's also possible (and perhaps inevitable) that you will lead a much healthier and longer life, too.

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Filed Under: Job Search | Workplace Issues

Tags: exercise | food | health and wellness | love your job | sociology

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