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Good News! Research Verifies "Work is Good for You"


02Jun 2008

Although I am a psychologist who has published research myself, and reviews and uses research findings in my everyday work, those of you who have known me for a while also know I have a bit of a skeptical (and sometimes cynical) view of claims made by researchers (and even more so, claims reported in the mainstream media). Part of my skepticism is based on experience of seeing research questions, designs and results skewed by the researchers’ a priori biases (i.e. the beliefs they held prior to the research, which affected how they looked at the problem). And part of my cynicism is based on the stupid things that we sometimes research — like the research psychiatrists did over a ten year span to determine that infants have different temperaments. Psychologists, psychiatrists and other social scientists seem to “shine” more than others in the area of stupid research.

Having said all of that, I now can report that psychologists have verified what many of our parents told us when we were kids and teenagers — that “work is good for you“. Or, alternative expressions included: “It will be good for you to get out there and sweat for a while.” “Idle hands are the devil’s tool.” Or, “Work never hurt anyone.”

So, if you (or your kids and grandkids) come from the worldview that having research to back up your beliefs gives you more credibility, you can now say with confidence: “Research has shown that work is good for you — emotionally and for your overall psychological well-being.” People who work tend to be more emotionally healthy and they find more satisfaction in their lives.

Additionally, we know that the most important aspects of work-life to manage are the transitions — from student-life to work, from job to job, from work to nonwork (being laid off, staying home with children, retirement) and from nonwork to work (reentering the workforce after being out for a while).

Do we need research to tell us these points? Probably not. But I thought I’d share them with you. If you want more specifics, see the May-June 2008 edition of the American Psychologist.

Have a great week. And for those of us who are fortunate enough to have the privilege of working, be happy and remember that working this week will be good for your mental health.

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