When employees make decisions about their daily activities and are presented with challenging tasks they enjoy, they are likely to experience better health. This conclusion is drawn from a study titled Creative Work and Health conducted by a research team at the Population Research Center at The University of Texas, and published in the December 2007 issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.
The study’s lead author John Mirowsky, a sociology professor at the Population Research Center, defined creative tasks as non-routine, enjoyable and allowing the doer to learn new things and solve problems. He added that people involved in this kind of work, regardless of whether or not they receive a salary, feel healthier and experience fewer physical problems.
The researchers also discovered that employed people are generally healthier then the unemployed. This is true even if they don’t exercise complete control over their daily activities and aren’t necessarily involved in creative activity. The study further revealed that the daily activities of employed persons are more creative than those of unemployed persons of the same sex, age, and level of education.
After reviewing the data, researchers concluded that there were some important health advantages in having challenging work. Being involved in work that is considered somewhat above average in creativity, as opposed to being involved in work that is somewhat below average, is equal to being 6.7 years younger. It is also equal to having two additional years of education or 15 times more household income.
When examining various job categories, the researchers found that jobs that offer a high status within an organization, provide the incumbent managerial authority, or that require complex work with data, generally involve more creative tasks. Conversely, jobs that are further down on the organizational chart, and have little or no managerial authority are considered less creative. The example the researchers used of a job fitting this description is that of an assembly line worker.
However, even if someone works in an uncreative job, they can still find creative ways to approach their assigned tasks. The study uncovered the fact that people in a variety of jobs found ways to make their work more creative. It was also noted that people with higher levels of education enjoyed more creative activities in their lives, including both paid and volunteer.