By many accounts, America’s workers are both overworked and overwhelmed: Work days bleed into personal time, and some complain about the inability to control, or even plan for their constantly changing schedules. So it’s no surprise that such circumstances can lead to high stress levels, but the reality of career-related stress might be more costly than most workers realize.
A 2015 working paper from Harvard and Stanford Business Schools takes a look at 10 common job stressors: from lack of health insurance, to long working hours, to job insecurity. Researchers then considered how the mental and physical effects of these forms of stress related to mortality. The paper found that health problems stemming from job stress, like hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and decreased mental health, can lead to fatal conditions that wind up killing about 120,000 people each year—making work-related stressors and the maladies they cause, more deadly than diabetes, Alzheimer’s, or influenza.
High levels of stress are costly in monetary terms, too. Researchers found that stress-related health problems could be responsible for between 5 to 8 percent of annual healthcare costs in the U.S. That amounts to about $180 billion each year in healthcare expenses.
The study found that some stressors proved more problematic than others. Lack of health insurance, for instance, has a particularly grim effect on health. It results in financial stress, causing delayed treatment for potentially serious medical issues—which can certainly contribute to mortality.