How Loving Your Job Makes You Live Longer

You’ve probably heard that if you do what you love for a living, you’ll never work a day in your life. But you may not know that the data shows that loving your job is actually related to a longer life expectancy. Using surveys and government statistics, one of our researchers compared mortality rates in each state to aggregate job satisfaction indicators.

Some of the findings were expected, but we were able to find that not only does a state’s level of career contentment correlate to age-adjusted mortality, but two indicators of job satisfaction in particular seem to be the main factors.

  • How much workers in each state love their jobs is correlated to the mortality rate in that state.
  • Job satisfaction is strongly correlated to feelings of financial well beingwell-being and commute times — finances are a solid predictor of job love, while commute times are tied to job hate.
  • States where workplace engagement is high also tend to have the most dangerous working conditions, including workplace deaths and injuries.

We’ll delve deeper into our finding in a moment, but here’s a map of the happiest states by workplace factors:

Our methodology

To learn how your life expectancy is correlated to your work satisfaction, we had to figure out how to measure each. Death rates were easy: we pulled age-adjusted mortality rates from the CDC’s most recent Morbidity and Mortality report and ranked each state.

Next we had to measure worker happiness, and for this we had to branch out a bit, building a ranking from how much people love or hate their jobs in each state from a Brandwatch analysis of two million tweets, employee engagement rates from the State of the American Workplace, and financial well-being and sense of purpose ratings from Gallup’s survey.

We ranked all fifty states by each factor and then added the rankings up to give each state a “happy worker” score.

When you compare the two maps, mortality and happiest workers, you see plenty of overlap — and when we took these two scores and ran a simple correlation function on them, we found that a state’s age-adjusted deaths per 100,000 people are correlated to its worker happiness score to a statistically significant degree.

How the happy score factors are tied to mortality rates

The next thing we did was dig into the individual factors a bit to see which had the strongest ties to mortality rates.

Loving your job matters, but…

But not much. We found only a slight correlation between each state’s “love/hate my job” ratio and the age-adjusted mortality rates.

To be fair, we need to also consider that the “job love” score is actually a ratio of love versus hate. That is, it’s not just a tally of how many people say they love their jobs; the states winning this category also have comparatively fewer saying that they hate their jobs. And since the study itself says in the “hate my job conversation” the word “tired” came through in most mentioned topics, we looked at the states’ commutes and hours worked.

As it turns out, average hours worked in a week isn’t a powerful factor. The variance from 40 in a week just isn’t significant enough to matter. However, the fewer people commuting more than twenty minutes each way, the happier its workers tended to be — in fact, it has the strongest correlation to job love of any factor we checked.

And…

Financial well being is strongly tied to lower mortality

The next happiness factor we looked into was financial well being, how they felt about managing their economic lives to reduce stress and increase security.

It’s no surprise that financially secure workers tend to be happier with their jobs. Also, it’s not groundbreaking news that people with more money have better health outcomes, given that they can afford better health care solutions.

The interesting note to take from looking at loving/hating your job is that, while it’s not strongly tied to your mortality, it is highly correlated to your sense of financial well being. And it may come as no surprise but in the Twitter “love my job” discussion, money was the top theme.

Being engaged with your work is not related to good health

Gallup’s recent State of the American Workplace reports that only a third of employees can be described as engaged by their work, but given that engaged workers are 28 percent more likely to participate in company wellness programs than other employees, we expected to see a similar situation where high worker engagement rates lowered mortality.

But as you can see from the chart, the data show that our prediction was wrong: states with higher employee engagement have slightly higher death rates.

High engagement applies to the workplace as well

We wanted to hammer out what was going on here, so we looked into the factors and realized that self-describing as engaged by your work says more about the type of work you do than any of the other factors: sense of life purpose, financial well beingwell-being, and how much you love your job.

And since the other part of the study was mortality, we looked into what it is that would make the workplace itself dangerous.

To measure workplace danger in each state, we turned to public data: OSHA data for workplace injuries, BLS data for people killed on the job, and lastly the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for the number of accidents resulting in injury for every mile driven.

We figured we were on the right track when we found that there’s a very strong statistical correlation between the rates of workplace deaths and the overall age-adjusted mortality rates in each state.

What does that mean?

We found that of all of the happiness factors, workers tend to feel greater senses of purpose and higher rates of engagement in states where they have higher levels of commuting accidents, workplace injuries, and workplace deaths.

As for why this is, we don’t exactly know. It may simply be that when you’re working in dangerous conditions, you’re more likely to be focused on what you’re doing — after all, it may be a matter of life and death.

These are the states with the happiest workers

State Happy Worker Rank Love Job Rank Engaged Worker Rank Financial Well-being Sense of Purpose
North Dakota 1 3 25 1 5
Hawaii 2 15 20 10 3
South Dakota 3 16 35 2 1
Utah 4 5 35 7 12
Idaho 5 1 25 17 19
Montana 6 2 25 18 22
Vermont 7 4 30 4 30
Tennessee 8 10 20 29 10
Minnesota 9 9 40 3 23
Nebraska 10 13 30 14 21
Colorado 11 14 30 13 25
California 12 12 30 28 13
Alaska 13 7 30 5 45
Texas 14 33 20 32 2
Wyoming 15 20 30 23 17
New Mexico 16 24 25 33 9
New Hampshire 17 37 25 11 18
Iowa 18 11 40 6 35
Arizona 19 36 20 34 6
North Carolina 20 25 35 35 7
Florida 21 48 20 31 4
Virginia 22 42 30 15 20
Maine 23 6 20 39 43
Oklahoma 24 26 20 47 18
Alabama 25 30 10 45 26
Georgia 26 29 25 43 15
Wisconsin 27 21 45 12 36
Washington 28 8 45 21 41
Delaware 29 50 15 41 11
Kansas 30 27 30 20 42
Indiana 31 23 30 30 37
Nevada 32 18 25 40 39
Missouri 33 19 40 25 38
Michigan 34 41 35 19 28
Illinois 35 38 45 16 26
South Carolina 36 39 30 44 14
Mississippi 37 34 20 50 24
Arkansas 38 17 20 46 46
Massachusetts 39 28 50 9 47
Kentucky 40 35 15 37 48
Pennsylvania 41 40 40 24 31
Maryland 42 46 35 22 32
New York 43 32 50 26 29
Louisiana 44 47 15 49 27
Connecticut 45 49 50 8 33
Oregon 46 22 35 42 49
New Jersey 47 44 50 27 34
Rhode Island 48 31 40 36 50
West Virginia 49 43 35 48 40
Ohio 50 45 40 38 44

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