Study after study has linked long work hours, demanding bosses, and other on-the-job stressors to health problems ranging from insomnia to heart attacks. But the jobs themselves may not be entirely to blame.
According to a new study of Swedish twins, the relationship between job stress and health problems is influenced in part by differences in personality and temperament, such as how optimistic, confident or self-critical a person is. And these traits are in turn closely related to genetic makeup.
The researchers analyzed data from about 300 pairs of fraternal and (genetically) identical twins, many of whom did not grow up together. The various combinations of shared genes and upbringings allowed the researchers to parse the connections between genes and environment, job satisfaction and stress, and physical health.
"We're not saying job stress makes no difference, or there aren't things that cause stress," says lead author Timothy Judge, a professor of management at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. "But we can't have a concept ... that life would be better if we just changed jobs."