Want to live longer? Supportive co-workers may help

Wed May 11, 2011 2:46pm EDT
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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Having supportive colleagues not only makes the workday easier, it may also help people live longer, according to a new study.

Researchers at Tel Aviv University in Israel found that a good relationship with co-workers had an impact on mortality risk for people and was most pronounced between the ages of 38 and 43.

"Peer social support, which could represent how well a participant is socially integrated in his or her employment context, is a potent predictor of the risk of all causes of mortality," the researchers said in the study reported in the journal Health Psychology, which is published by the American Psychological Association.

Dr. Arie Shirom and her team studied the medical records of more than 800 workers who had been followed for 20 years, from 1988 to 2008, and questionnaires that measured job demands, control at work and peer and supervisor support.

Although complaining about the boss is a favorite work topic, the study showed that having a supportive supervisor had no impact on mortality.

The researchers also found a pronounced difference between the sexes in the impact of having control and decision-making authority at work. It increased the risk of mortality for women in the study, but had a protective effect for men.

Decision authority was based on workers being able to use their initiative, having input on how to use their skills and the freedom to make decisions to accomplish tasks.

Shirom explained the findings saying that most of the people in the study held blue collar jobs, in which men typically had high levels of control and women did not.

One-third of people in the study were women. The average workday was 8.8 hours. Eighty percent were married with children, and nearly half had at least 12 years of education.

The researchers controlled for other risk factors that could impact mortality such as a cholesterol levels, blood pressure, smoking, drinking and anxiety.