Worked to death? New data shows work stress is as bad as secondhand smoke

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MIDTOWN, Manhattan — Most people in the Tri-State got Labor Day off from work, but a growing number of employees have to work on the holiday.  Also, many people off from work on Monday were getting a one-day respite from jobs they don't necessarily love.  Both of those facts support the findings of a new, detailed study.  It concludes that pressures at work may be slowly killing some workers, and in some cases, the health deterioration may not be so slow.

The study, carried out by researchers from the Harvard Business School and Stanford University, concluded that intense work pressure can have the same effect on an employee's well being regularly exposed to secondhand smoke.

That smoking hazard can lead to asthma attacks, respiratory and other infections,  coronary heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and even death.

"That's rough," said retail worker Avanelle David on her way in to work on the holiday. "I didn't think it was that bad."

The study, recently published in a behavioral sciences journal, just in time for Labor Day, analyzed more than 200 different studies on stress on the job, and the conclusions were eye opening.

It found that when workers feel their jobs aren't secure, the odds of them reporting poor health rises 50 percent.  When work hours are consistently long, mortality is 19 percent more likely.  Also, when there are high demands on the job, the chance of a worker developing a diagnosed illness rises 35 percent.

"Stress is something psychological,"Maria Morabito told PIX11 News. "Psychological illnesses are not very well known, and yet they have a physical impact on us."

She is a tour guide, but it turned out that she was speaking from experience.  She took on her current position in order to get out of a higher stress job:  teaching.

"I was so stressed," said Morabito, "that I became paralyzed for six months."

With the U.S. being the only one of the world's 21 wealthiest countries to not have guaranteed paid days off, there's no shortage of people working on the holiday.

One boss gave his advice for reducing stress among his workers.

"Getting them outside, a little break, not feel like you're all day inside the building," said delivery supervisor Reagan Santos.  "Buy them lunch," he added. "Appreciate your employees."

The study showed that while that helps, there are deeper issues, like employees having to choose between work and family, having limited control over decisions that affect them and having no health insurance.