Waiting Tables May Be the Most-Stressful Job of All, Researchers Say

Probably few of us think waiting tables is a picnic, but a new study has found that it may be even more stressful than most of us realize.

Probably few of us think waiting tables is a picnic: all those orders to keep straight, the special requests, the last-minute changes, the running from kitchen to table and back again, the worry over tips and take-home pay.

But a new study has found that being a waiter or waitress may be even more stressful than we realized — more so even than being a neurosurgeon (or really any kind of doctor) or a stockbroker, not to mention a teacher, a scientist, an architect, a janitor, a miner or a manual laborer.

Researchers in China have determined that jobs with low pay and high workloads, like waitressing, are the most stressful and can leave those who do these jobs at a much greater risk of developing heart disease, cancer and stroke.

"Having a lot of job stress has been linked to heart disease, but studies on job stress and stroke have shown inconsistent results," study author Dingli Xu, M.D., with Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China, said in a release. "It's possible that high-stress jobs lead to more unhealthy behaviors, such as poor eating habits, smoking and a lack of exercise."

The authors analyzed six previous studies and grouped jobs based on the degree to which workers have control over their tasks and how demanding the job was, factoring in time pressure, mental stress and coordination.

Jobs with low demand and low control — like janitors, miners and manual laborers – were called “passive jobs.” Those with low demand and high control — scientists and architects — were deemed “low-stress jobs.” High-demand, high-control jobs — doctors, teachers and engineers — were labeled “active jobs.” And jobs that combine high demand and low control — such as waitresses, nursing aids and others in the service industry — were considered “high-stress jobs.”

Those with high-stress jobs had a 22 percent higher risk of suffering a stroke than those with low-stress jobs overall — and they were 58 percent more likely to suffer an ischemic stroke. And women with high-stress jobs had a 33 percent higher risk of stroke than women in low-stress jobs.

So the next time your waitress forgets to bring your dressing on the side, you might want to let it slide — if only for the sake of her health.

Photo courtesy of iStock
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