Intense Work Can Shorten Men’s Lives


As if the work done by men wasn’t tough enough, the new research suggests that men in physically taxing jobs can be at risk of an early death.

The increase in risk can be as high as 18%  beyond that of a typical office worker, the researchers told.

“Our findings suggest that there are contrasting health outcomes associated with occupational and leisure-time physical activity,” told lead researcher Pieter Coenen, from the department of public and occupational health at VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam.

The findings are important because many people are highly active at work however typically less active during leisure time, he told.

“So these men, who are mostly from lower socioeconomic groups, are exposed to unhealthy physical activity at work and only benefit to a lesser extent from the positive health effects of leisure-time physical activity,” Coenen told.

However the study couldn’t prove that physical activity at work can cause an early death, he added. “To be fair, we are not 100 percent sure yet — more research is necessary,” he added.

In addition, whether the type of physical work has an influence on the risk of dying is not clear, Coenen added.

Guidelines encourage people to partake in up to 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise daily, but they do not distinguish between work and leisure activities, Coenen added.

To reduce the risk of death seen in physically intense work, he advised reducing the level of activity in physically demanding jobs.

However “an easier option may be to keep encouraging people to remain physically active during leisure time,” Coenen told. “This may help these workers to balance the negative health effects of occupational physical activity with the positive effects of the leisure-time physical activity.”

To see if a difference between physical activity at work or during leisure time affected health, Coenen and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis where they pooled data from 17 previously published studies that included nearly 194,000 men. The studies were conducted from the 60’s to 2010.

The researchers found that men who worked physically demanding job had an 18 percent higher risk of early death as compared to men whose work did not involve a vigorous physical activity.

The increased risk of dying remained constant after levels of leisure-time activity was taken into account, the researchers revealed.

Another U.S. expert said these findings make sense.

“Anyone who has ever painted a house or moved furniture and also worked out for fitness knows there is a big difference,” told Dr. David Katz. He’s director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center in Derby, Conn., and past president of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine.

Working out is designed to give the greatest benefit to fitness while prioritizing the comfort, Katz said.

“There is even quite active competition among exercise equipment manufacturers to provide the most intense workout that also optimizes comfort and convenience,” he told.

In contrast exercise from work, is often highly repetitive and stresses certain body parts while sparing others, and is quite uncomfortable, Katz said.

“Thus, what appears to be the adverse effect of the work done on the job might add, or even alternatively, be the adverse effect of poverty, psychological stress, perhaps depression, and other lifestyle differences that track with these [types of jobs],” Katz told.