Labor Day 2022: A Statement by NIOSH Director, John Howard, MDPosted on by
On the first Monday of September, we have an opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the incredible contributions and achievements of American workers. Labor Day is an important reminder of the impact of the U.S. workforce and of our vision for safer, healthier workers.
Sometimes, the greatest threats to workers are ones we cannot see. Work stress can negatively impact workers’ mental and physical health. We know that increased negative mental health symptoms among workers are linked to increased absenteeism, high turnover, lower productivity, and lower morale. Job-related factors like low wages, lack of supervisor support, task overload, and job security can harm a workers ability to function optimally in and outside of work.
Working conditions are so influential that some occupations are known to have higher rates of suicide than others. The construction industry has one of the highest suicide rates compared to other industries. First responders may also be at elevated risk. In fact, law enforcement officers and firefighters are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty. While the causes of suicide are complex, many occupational factors can play a role, including work environments, workplace culture, and stress. Important strategies to improve occupational factors for suicide prevention include creating and maintaining healthy work organizations, increasing worker job control, and ensuring an optimal level of work demands.
The U.S. Surgeon General recently highlighted these concerns in an advisory addressing health worker burnout. Burnout is the result of chronic workplace stress due to an imbalance between job demands and resources. In a recently published study, our researchers found that healthcare support workers and aides, as well as counselors and those who are directly addressing the mental health needs of others, experienced varying levels of insufficient sleep, depression, and other adverse health conditions, even before the onset of the pandemic. To understand and address the systemic causes of health worker burnout and improve well-being, we recently launched the Health Worker Mental Health Initiative. Through this Initiative we aim to raise awareness of health workers’ mental health issues, particularly focusing on the role work conditions play and what employers can do.
Labor Day is meant as an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the achievements of workers. It also reminds us that each worker has a life outside of work with unique personal and family needs, including childcare, eldercare, schooling, and healthcare. Work flexibility is increasingly recognized by workers as an essential determinant of their well-being and NIOSH is committed to understanding how work design and employment conditions impact physical and psychological outcomes.
We thank workers for their contributions to America’s strength and prosperity and invite you to join us as we recognize the workforce, today and always.
John Howard, MD, NIOSH Director
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