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Early Job Satisfaction Can Affect Health by Middle Age

Woman presenting project to colleaguesJob satisfaction in someone’s twenties and thirties can affect mental and physical health by the forties, according to a nationwide study presented this month at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association. Researchers found the effects of a job on mental health were particularly strong.

How Satisfied Are People with Their Jobs?

Researchers from Ohio State University used data on 6,432 Americans from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which followed people who were between the ages of 14 and 22 at the start of the survey in 1979.

Participants ranked job satisfaction on a scale of 1-4 when they were between the ages of 25 and 39. Researchers then divided participants into four groups: those with consistently low job satisfaction, those with consistently high job satisfaction, those with job satisfaction that began low and improved, and those whose job satisfaction started high but declined. Those in the low job satisfaction group had an average job satisfaction score of just below 3, which researchers interpreted as a fair amount of job satisfaction.

About 45% of participants were consistently dissatisfied with their jobs, with another 23% beginning with high satisfaction that declined over time. Fifteen percent reported consistent happiness with their jobs, and 17% began with low satisfaction that trended upward.

Job Satisfaction’s Effects on Mental Health

At 40, participants provided data about their overall health. Using those with high job satisfaction as the reference point, researchers compared how the other three groups—each of whom had periods of low satisfaction—fared by comparison.

Low job satisfaction throughout early careers produced the worst scores on measures of sleep quality, depression, worry, emotional issues, and overall mental health. People with declining job satisfaction also reported worse mental health and were especially likely to struggle with poor sleep and excessive worry. They did not have higher rates of depression or emotional concerns compared to those with consistently high job satisfaction. Increasing career satisfaction did not correlate with additional mental health issues.

Job satisfaction also affected physical health, though not as significantly as mental health. Low job satisfaction correlated with more back pain and more colds compared to higher satisfaction, but researchers found no increase in serious illnesses such as cancer or diabetes.


Grabmeier, J. (2016, August 22). Lousy jobs hurt your health by the time you’re in your 40s. Retrieved from

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  • Paige

    August 25th, 2016 at 1:54 PM

    Well thank goodness I have loved most of the jobs I’ve ever had!
    I guess this bodes well for me down the road!

  • Daviid

    August 26th, 2016 at 10:48 AM

    So you could turn that around and also add that job dissatisfaction can also impact on’es health by the time middle age rolls aorund albeit in a very different way.

  • sabrina

    August 27th, 2016 at 8:57 AM

    I am sure that the longer the job dissatisfaction goes on the more likely it will be that you start seeing more and more of the physical ramifications.

  • Brandon

    August 28th, 2016 at 10:08 AM

    How many people can you honestly say loved their first real jobs out of college? Not many because the hours are usually long and the pay is probably bad.

    But I don’t think that breaks people, I kind of think that it is a rite of passage to have a really crappy first job and then that makes you more appreciative of what comes along next.

  • Timothy

    August 29th, 2016 at 10:33 AM

    How about trying to find more value in your life, something that does not revolve around a job?

  • Donna

    August 30th, 2016 at 11:25 AM

    The biggest thing that I see are the people who tend to not have any kind of separation between work like and home life. I definitely think that if you do not allow yourself to have some space between the two, then there is always a good chance that dissatisfaction will be allowed to grow and flourish.

  • Butler

    August 31st, 2016 at 2:30 PM

    So this could be what is disrupting my sleep, the fact that I hated all of my first few jobs? I highly doubt that but hey I guess anything is worth considering, right, when you are looking for a way to consistently fall asleep and stay asleep.

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