Way too many people hate their jobs. Exactly how many is hard to say, but depending on which study you believe, somewhere between 20 percent and 40 percent of employees are miserable at work.
And to a lot of people this is just the way things are. Once when I was in the U.S. to do a speech, a young man told me that, "Of course I hate my job -- that's why they pay me to do it." Many people still have the attitude that if you're enjoying work, you're not working hard enough, and that the only path to career success is to work long hours and sacrifice everything else in your life for a job that makes you miserable.
Well, it turns out that not only is this kind of thinking completely wrong (studies show that people who like their jobs are actually more productive and successful at work) but it's also dangerous, because it can make you sick.
Here are five ways hating your job can harm your health.
1: Hating your job can make you gain weight.
If you dislike your job and see the pounds piling on, the two could well be related. Studies have shown that an unhappy work life robs you of the energy you need to exercise and make good dietary choices. Or to put it another way: After a long frustrating day at work, you are more likely to go for a tub of ice cream and less likely to go for a run.
2: Hating your job can lower your immune system.
It's commonly thought that workplace stress comes from being too busy at work or working too many hours, but stress researchers are starting to rethink that assumption. They now say instead that workplace stress comes from being in a near-constant state of negative affect, i.e., feeling bad most of the time at the office.
If you work really hard, but feel appreciated at work and see your efforts paying off, you're not as likely to become stressed. On the other hand, if you're being treated badly, or if nothing you do at work is ever recognized and you spend your work days in a more or less permanent state of frustration, worry and depression, you can become stressed even if you only work 30 hours a week. And studies have shown that workplace stress harms the immune system and increases the risk of depression.
3: Hating your job can ruin your relationship.
One of the worst things about hating your job, is that it doesn't stop at the end of the work day. For many people it spills over and affects their whole life.
One study showed that people who are unhappy at work have less satisfying sex lives and more problems in their relationships and researchers have found a clear link between a good relationship with your spouse and overall health. For instance, men who have a good relationship with their significant other live six years longer on average. Women only get two and half years out of the deal, probably because they live longer than men in general.
4: Hating your job can rob you of sleep.
It's common knowledge that consistently sleeping a full night does wonders for the human body. The restorative work done while bodies are at rest cannot be underestimated. People who are miserable at work often find it harder to fall asleep or they don't sleep as well. You've probably been there: laying awake, staring at the ceiling of the ticking clock on the nightstand as visions of your to-do list or frustrating co-worker dance through your head. This is bad for your health because sleep restores the body and strengthens the immune system.
5: Hating your job increases your risk of serious illness.
And finally, hating your job directly increases your risk of contracting some dangerous diseases. One study of more than 20,000 U.S. nurses found that the nurses who were unhappy at work had a higher risk of getting sick, and we're talking serious diseases like some forms of cancer, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
If you hate your job, you have to act
All of this means, that if you hate your job, you have to act on it. You have to either figure out how to improve your current work situation or you have to find another job where you can be happy. The only option you don't have is to do nothing, because staying in that job you hate can make you sick. It can ultimately kill you.
Alexander Kjerulf, the "Chief Happiness Officer," is one of the world's leading experts on workplace happiness and the author of "Happy Hour is 9 to 5: How to love your job, love your life and kick butt at work."
Alexander is a speaker, consultant, and author with a global following of millions. He runs a consultancy firm offering lectures, workshops, and leadership training with focus on happiness at work for clients including IBM, Hilton, LEGO, HP and Ikea. Stay in touch with Alexander at www.pinetribe.com/alexander.