Stress at work has been seen to be unhealthy since it has a hand at increasing your risk of stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. But no one really knew how bad it is until recently.

In the latest issue of the journal Behavioral Science & Policy Association, researchers from Harvard Business School and Stanford University stated that work-related stress is as dangerous to one's health as secondhand smoke (which, by the way, is a carcinogen).

They analyzed 228 studies that assess the effects of 10 workplace stressors (like long work hours, high job demands, and economic insecurity) on four health outcomes: having a doctor-diagnosed condition, the perception of poor physical health, the perception of poor mental health, and death.

The researchers found that being insecure about your job increases your odds of thinking you have poor health by about 50 percent; high job demands raise your chances of having a doctor-diagnosed illness by 35 percent; and long work hours increase your mortality by almost 20 percent.

And there's a huge similarity with the results for people exposed to secondhand smoke. Those exposed to secondhand smoke consider their health poor by almost 50 percent. Secondhand smoke was also seen to cause mental health problems, medical conditions, and death.

According to the researchers, your work environment, like the presence or absence of fairness in the organization and work-family conflict, are also associated with health as strongly as the more concrete aspects of the work are, such long work hours and overtime. They also emphasize that the relationship between being really stressed at work is highly associated with poor health.

That said, the study concludes that exercising and eating healthy aren't enough anymore to improve your health, and proposes that there be an effort to reduce workplace-induced stress: limit work hours, have a flexible work arrangement, and other similar things.

While this finding may not exactly reach your boss, maybe there are other career paths that you'd like to consider that'll make you feel less stressed and a little bit happier. The researchers warn us that we shouldn't underestimate the effect of stress on mortality, and you might have more to lose when you don't heed them.

This article originally appeared on

* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

SCREENCAP: Up in the Air/Paramount Pictures (2009)

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