Judging by the number of us working on side hustles and passion projects in our free time, it's pretty obvious that building a dream career is major #goals. But according to a new study from Ohio State University, how happy you are with your job in your 20s and 30s is also important for how healthy you'll be down the road. (Psst...Here's Your Guilt-Free Guide to Taking a Mental Health Day.)
Researchers looked at how people between the ages of 25 and 39 rated how much they liked their jobs and put them into four categories: those who consistently loved their job, those who consistently hated it, those who started off low but increased job satisfaction overtime, and those who started out happy and decreased job satisfaction overtime. They then tracked everyone's health into their 40s.
As you might guess, being unhappy at work had some mental health impacts. Those who weren't happy at work in their 20s and 30s, reported more depression, sleep problems, excessive worry, and emotional issues. But a crappy career trajectory also caused some physical issues like back pain and more frequent colds, especially as people aged. And the authors note that this could get even worse as you get older. We know from previous research that mental health issues like anxiety and depression can cause more serious health problems like cardiovascular issues down the road. (Check out these 9 Ways to Treat Depression)
But it's important to note that there is a difference between paying your dues and being in a truly unsatisfying—and unhealthy—situation. The signs most strongly associated with low job satisfaction (and the ensuing health issues) are lack of autonomy, not being challenged, and not getting along with your coworkers, according to Jonathan Dirlam, a doctoral student at OSU and lead author on the study. If you're experiencing one or more of these issues at the office, it may be time to consider prioritizing your health and making a change, he says.