Do what you can to change the work culture in your office. Building positive relationships with coworkers and working to forge better communication with your supervisors may go a long way in terms of improving the morale within your work environment. If the situation is untenable, consider talking to human resources to see if there is a legal way to remedy the hostile environment in your workplace. And if you truly feel that the situation is taking a toll on your health, consider looking into alternative employment.
Not every form of stress eats at your stomach, gives you headaches or makes your neck ache. Work stress can creep up more subtly; the cumulative effect of insufficient sleep, whether caused by interrupted or poor sleep, insomnia or the body's inability to adjust to shift work can also speed your demise.
Scientific evidence for how this happens is accumulating. An analysis of several studies, published in May 2010, consistently linked getting less than six hours of sleep to an increased risk of dying early. The same study also found that sleeping more than nine hours nightly boosted the risk of premature death.
Researchers from the University of Warwick in Great Britain and from Federico II University medical school in Naples, Italy, analyzed 16 studies, involving more than 1.3 million people and 100,000 deaths in a 25-year period. The lead author of the study published in the journal Sleep, Francesco Cappuccio -- who also heads the Sleep, Health and Society program at the University of Warwick -- said that short sleep may be a cause of ill health, while abnormally long sleep may indicate underlying illness.
Sleeping six to eight hours is considered optimal. Sleeping less than six hours, often driven by pressure to work more, or the inability to accommodate to the odd hours of shift work, has been linked to heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and obesity. The stress of inadequate sleep can, among other things, cause the body to release more stress hormones, which in turn raise blood pressure and strain the heart. Stress also can make blood stickier, promoting the formation of clots that can cause a heart attack.
When possible, leave work at the office; try not to let your work life bleed into the late hours of the night. If necessary, schedule your sleep so that you are guaranteed to get a solid six to eight hours. And if stress is keeping you awake at night on a regular basis, you may want to seek professional help.
An intriguing study published in the May 2009 issue of the American Economic Review highlighted the life-threatening impact of losing a job.
Daniel G. Sullivan, director of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and Till von Wachter, an economist at Columbia University, studied death records and earnings data for male Pennsylvania workers in the 1970s and 1980s, when that state was hit by a recession. They calculated that in the year after employees with a lot of seniority lost their jobs, death rates were 50 percent to 100 percent higher than otherwise would have been expected. Not only that, but they found a persistent effect: the rate remained elevated 20 years later.