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January 10, 2008

Richard Florida

Good and Good for You

« You Go, Girl! | Main | The Race Factor in Polls »

The latest issue of Journal of Health and Social Behavior reports on a study that looked at people's health and work.  It turns out that "creative" work is good for your health and that employees who have more control over their daily activities and can do challenging work are likely to be in better health.

“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 nonroutine, 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.”

And although people who work give up some independence, the study found that being employed does lead to better health. 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 and were followed up in 1998. The survey addressed general health and physical functioning, as well as 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 didn’t examine specific job positions that may 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, “People with a wide variety of jobs manage to find ways to make them creative. People with higher levels of education tend to have more creative activities, paid or not. Something about education helps individuals to find creative things to do and get the resources to do them.”

Sub required to get to the full journal article, but the American Sociological Association's press release is available here.

posted by Kevin Stolarick


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Premeir Mexican Pharmacies

This is a great study. I am sure those that had were employed also had better mental health.

Zoe B

This stuff definitely should be followed up. A couple of ideas:

1. Health research has shown that prolonged stress damages the body. If creativity correlates with greater control over one's work life, this could be experienced physically as a lower level of stress. Or, among stressful jobs, those that promote creativity might also allow more opportunity for stress reduction away from work (eg: greater salary or workplace culture encourages athletic activity). Or, perhaps the actual act of being creative directly reduces stress. All of these possibilities could be tested.

2. An educated and lively mind has been shown to delay the onset of Alzheimer's symptoms. Perhaps creativity promotes brain health over the long term. Neuroscientists probably are already working on this.

Ryan H

Health research certainly suggests that higher stress levels can cause or contribute to very serious chronic or acute ailments. The largest being heart disease. This study only takes into account the creative, independent side of these managerial positions. If it were to address the stress associated with these professions, the outcome would likely result in the subjects "real age" being much older, negatively impacting their overall health. Working and challenging the mind in my opinion is in no way negative, in fact I completely agree with the study. However, I believe there may be a fine line between indepedent, creative professions, and stressful ones.

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