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December 14, 2007

Creative Work Has Health Advantages, Study Suggests


Employees who have more control over their daily activities and can do challenging work they enjoy are likely to be in better health, new research suggests.

“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.”

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FOR MORE INFORMATION
Contact Sujata Sinha, Media Relations Officer at (202) 247-9871 or ssinha@asanet.org.

The Journal of Health and Social Behavior is a peer-reviewed quarterly scientific journal of the American Sociological Association.
Mirowsky, J. and C.E. Ross. 2007. Creative work and health. Journal of Health Social Behavior 48(4).

Interviews: John Mirowsky at mirowsky@prc.utexas.edu

 

About the American Sociological Association
The American Sociological Association (www.asanet.org), founded in 1905, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to serving sociologists in their work, advancing sociology as a science and profession, and promoting the contributions to and use of sociology by society.