If you have great co-workers, be sure to say thank you! Recent research published in Health Psychology suggests having good relationships with your peers at work can help you live a longer life.
The study tracked 820 adults over a 20-year period. The group was made up of 2/3 men, 1/3 women with an average age of 41 and working about nine hours per day. After two decades of data collection, study co-author Dr. Sharon Toker discovered employees who reported a low level of social support at work were 2.4 times more likely to have died as compared with their peers who had good social support. Looking ahead to the next 20 years, the researchers said a lack of emotional support at work translated into a 140% increased risk of dying.
“We spend most of our waking hours at work, and we don’t have much time to meet our friends during the weekdays,” Toker said. “Work should be a place where people can get necessary emotional support.”
Toker’s team found the findings held up even after they controlled for a wide range of other factors like age, sex, obesity, depression, smoking, alcohol use, blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
Interestingly enough, relationships with bosses or supervisors had a much weaker influence on longevity. The study shows it’s truly your peers who make the difference.
The study also pointed out the modern workplace can make it hard to develop and maintain the supportive relationships that could help you live longer. Telecommuting, emailing your co-worker who’s right down the hallway, and an intense focus on productivity (at the expense of the good, old-fashioned coffee break) all keep us more isolated.
The good news is that these relationships can add years to your life – the bad news is you have to work at them (just like anything else).
If you’re like me and tend to eat lunch at your desk while catching up on emails – stop. Grab a co-worker and get away from your desk. Not only will you come back refueled and refreshed for the afternoon, you might just lengthen your lifespan!