Creative Work Has Health Advantages

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Employees who have more control over their daily activities and can do challenging work that they enjoy are likely to be in better health, new research suggests.

"The most important finding is that creative activity helps people stay healthy," said lead author John Mirowsky, a sociology professor with the Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin. "Creative activity is non-routine, enjoyable and provides opportunity for learning and for solving problems. People who do that kind of work, whether paid or not, feel healthier and have fewer physical problems."

Moreover, although people who work give up some independence, the study found that having a job does lead to better health.

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"One thing that surprised us was that the daily activities of employed persons are more creative than those of non-employed persons of the same sex, age and level of education," Mirowsky said.

The study, which appears in the December issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, comprised 2,592 adults who responded to a 1995 national telephone survey; researchers followed up respondents in 1998. The survey addressed general health, physical functioning, how people spent their time on a daily basis and whether their work, even if unpaid, gave them a chance to learn new things or do things they enjoy.

"The health advantage of being somewhat above average in creative work [in the 60th percentile] versus being somewhat below average [in the 40th percentile] is equal to being 6.7 years younger," Mirowsky said. It is also equal to having two more years of education or 15 times greater household income, he added.

Although the authors did not examine specific job positions that could confer this health advantage, professions considered not to involve a "creative" environment were those such as assembly lines.

Rather, jobs that are high-status, with managerial authority, or that require complex work with data generally provide more access to creative work, Mirowsky said. However, he added, "People with a wide variety of jobs manage to find ways to make them creative."

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