American workers rate their workplaces for impact on their health, stress level and family life. It’s not all bad, and not all good.

The Issue

Where people live and work greatly influences their health. To examine workers’ perceptions of health related to the workplace and inform the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s work in creating a Culture of Health in America, the Foundation—with National Public Radio and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health—conducted a poll of working adults in 2016.

Key Findings

Researchers found:

  • Their job affects their overall health for more than four in 10 working adults (28% good impact; 16% bad impact), their stress level (16% good; 43% bad), and family life (32% good; 17% bad).
  • Workers in low-paying jobs face dangerous work situations (45%) compared to those in high-paying jobs (33%), and find work has a bad impact on stress (51%) compared to those in average and high-paying jobs (41%).
  • One in five workers (19%) are “workaholics,” working 50 or more hours a week in their main job. They do so because they say it is important to their career (56%); and that their workload makes it hard to take a vacation (49%).
  • Black working adults give their workplace fair or poor ratings (37%) on providing a healthy work environment, compared to Hispanic (26%) and white workers (21%).
  • Women are more likely while working to have cared for a family member who was seriously ill, injured, or disabled (33%), compared to men (24%); blacks more likely (41%) to have done so than whites (28%) or Hispanics (20%).
  • A majority of workers (55%) go to work when sick; including medical workers (60%) and restaurant workers (50%) who go to work when they have a cold or flu.
  • For most workers, the workplace provides a healthy work environment (75%) and offers formal wellness or health improvement programs (51%).

About the Survey

An independent research company conducted telephone (landline and cell phone) interviews of a nationally representative sample of U.S. workers (full- and part-time) using random-digit dialing during a month in early 2016.

Noted Experts Delve Into the Issue of Workplace Health

An online Forum at Harvard School of Public Health, presented in collaboration with RWJF and NPR, will address concerns most expressed by employees—and draw on lessons learned from employers that cultivate healthy environments—to see if there are feasible measures to produce a healthier workplace.

Tune in to the video