Is Job Burnout the New Smoking?

Is Job Burnout the New Smoking?

At first glance, it might seem like job burnout and tobacco use are 2 separate detrimental issues when it comes to health.

However, they actually have much more in common than you might think.

Here are 5 surprising ways that smoking and job burnout are similar:

Both are significantly affected by stress

Job burnout is a syndrome resulting from workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. However, stress is a trigger for tobacco use, too. In fact, tobacco use can CAUSE stress.

Regular use of cigarettes leads to brain changes that make it harder to relieve stress. Within a short time, virtually every smoker feels increased stress and anxiety and possibly feelings of depression as a direct result of continued smoking and dependence on nicotine.

The good news: within 2 weeks of stopping tobacco use, studies how stress, anxiety, and depression all improve.

Both increase risk for heart disease

Both contribute to cardiovascular issues, but they also have similar outcomes with other health issues, including:

  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • High blood pressure
  • Lower ability to heal or resist infection

Both can contribute to diabetes

High levels of the hormone cortisol surge during times of stress and can stay elevated during burnout. This can throw blood sugar out of balance, significantly increasing risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

There’s a similar mechanism at play with nicotine, which increases blood sugar levels and makes it more difficult for the body to regulate itself. Because of that, people who smoke are 30% to 40% more likely to get type 2 diabetes.

Both can cause secondhand effects in others

The health risks of secondhand smoke are well established.

The Centers for Disease Control notes that since 1964, 2.5 million adults who didn’t smoke died from health problems caused by secondhand smoke exposure. Children can also be significantly affected, with higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome, respiratory illness and impaired lung function like asthma, and frequent ear infections.

With job burnout, there can also be a secondhand effect, known as secondhand stress. One study found that observing someone else’s stress—what researchers call empathic stress—can increase the risk of stress-related diseases such as heart disease, asthma, diabetes and depression/anxiety.

Social support can effectively address both

Research suggests that social support can mediate the effects of job burnout, and it’s also a key factor in tobacco cessation.

Seminal work in this area found that social support is particularly important when someone is starting their quitting journey.  For example, smokers who perceived themselves as having more social support from their romantic partners were more likely to make a quit attempt and to remain quit after 3 months.

We know from our own research that participation in an active online community can be a key driver of quitting success. Research shows that tobacco users in our online EX Community are 2 times more likely to quit compared to those who don’t participate.

Both job burnout and workplace tobacco use can be reduced

When it comes to job burnout and tobacco cessation, the right strategic approach matters—and the sooner it’s used, the healthier a workforce can become.

That’s why we provide robust stress management support through interactive content and live chat with our EX Coaches to end users.

And for clients, our team of experts set organizations up for success by advising on incentive administration, tobacco-free policies, member engagement, and more.

To give your organization the strategic guidance and support it needs to solve tobacco use among employees or health plan members, start a conversation with us today!

Jessie Saul, Ph.D.

Director, Strategic Insights

Dr. Jessie Saul brings 19 years of experience in research, program evaluation, and strategic implementation around tobacco cessation. She applies this deep understanding to improve EX Program performance and reduce tobacco use among populations. She earned her Ph.D. in Science and Technology Studies from Cornell University.

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