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Like Your Coworkers, Live Longer

ASSOCIATIONS NOW, June 2011 Intelligence

Summary: People who have strong peer support at work tend to live longer.

Need another reason to illustrate why getting along with your coworkers matters? People who have a good peer support system at work may live longer than those who don't, according to research from the American Psychological Association (APA).

This effect of peer social support on the risk of mortality was most pronounced among those between the ages of 38 and 43. In addition, men who felt like they had control and decision authority at work also experienced this "protective effect," according to the study, published in the May issue of the APA journal Health Psychology. However, control and decision authority increased the risk of mortality among women in the sample.

"[P]eer social support, which could represent how well a participant is socially integrated in his or her employment context, is a potent predictor of the risk of all causes of mortality," say the researchers.

Peer social support was rated high by researchers if participants reported that their coworkers were friendly and helpful in solving problems. Control and decision authority were rated high if participants said they were able to use their initiative and had opportunities to decide how best to use their skills and make decisions on how to accomplish tasks assigned to them.

Another surprising finding from researchers: Similar support from an employee's supervisor had no effect on mortality.

The study, conducted by researchers at Tel Aviv University, looked at the medical records of 820 adults who were followed from 1988 to 2008. The workers came from some of Israel's largest firms in finance, insurance, public utilities, healthcare, and manufacturing.

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