Americans Who Hate Their Jobs Are More Likely to Smoke
Well-Being

Americans Who Hate Their Jobs Are More Likely to Smoke

by Elizabeth Mendes, Sangeeta Agrawal, and Jim Harter

In U.S., 18% of the actively disengaged smoke vs. 15% of other workers

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans who are emotionally disconnected from their work and workplace, or "actively disengaged," are slightly more likely to smoke than those who are "engaged" or "not engaged" on the job. Eighteen percent of actively disengaged workers smoke vs. 15% of engaged or not engaged employees.

Engagement by Smoking vs. Nonsmoking

These data hold even after controlling for income level -- meaning workers who are actively disengaged, regardless of how much income they make, are more likely to smoke. The findings also hold true across gender, age, and education level.

The actively disengaged category is the worst of Gallup's engagement groupings, which also include "not engaged" and -- the best group -- "engaged."

These findings are based on Americans' assessments of workplace elements with proven linkages to performance outcomes, including productivity, customer service, quality, retention, safety, and profit. These data are based on surveys of more than 50,000 American adults, including 8,011 smokers, conducted as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index and Gallup Daily tracking from January through July 2013. Overall, 18% of American employees were actively disengaged at work in 2012, according to Gallup's State of the American Workplace report.

Gallup's employee engagement index categorizes workers as engaged, not engaged, or actively disengaged:

  • Engaged employees are involved in and enthusiastic about their work.
  • Those who are not engaged are satisfied with their workplaces, but are not emotionally connected to them -- and these employees are less likely to put in discretionary effort.
  • Those workers categorized as actively disengaged are emotionally disconnected from their work and workplace, and they jeopardize the performance of their teams.

Bottom Line

Gallup research has previously found a link between active disengagement at work and poor health. In fact, Gallup data have shown that the actively disengaged workers are just as likely as the unemployed to be in poor health. Those who are actively disengaged are more likely than other workers to have a host of chronic conditions and to be obese. And, they are more likely to experience stress, anger, and worry -- particularly during the workweek -- which could trigger them to smoke. The finding that these workers are also more likely to smoke fits with these prior discoveries.

Having a low income, although related to both smoking and active disengagement, is not the reason why the actively disengaged are more likely to smoke. The actively disengaged, regardless of how much they earn annually, are more likely than those who are engaged to smoke.

The causal direction of the relationship, though, is not clear from this data. It is possible that active disengagement causes workers to smoke, or it could be that something intrinsic to smokers makes them more likely to be actively disengaged on the job.

Regardless of which direction the relationship goes, what is clear is that employers can benefit from helping employees either stop smoking or never pick up the habit at all. Not only are there obvious healthcare cost benefits to this, but now Gallup data also show that there may be productivity gains to be found as well if fewer workers smoke.

About the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index tracks wellbeing in the U.S. and provides best-in-class solutions for a healthier world. To learn more, please visit well-beingindex.com.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey and Gallup Daily tracking survey Jan. 2-July 30, 2013, with a random sample of 50,059 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±2 percentage points.

For results based on the total sample of actively disengaged workers, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±2.6 percentage points.

For results based on the total sample of engaged and not engaged workers, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±2.1 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cellphone numbers are selected using random digit dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, cellphone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2012 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the July-December 2011 National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the 2010 census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.

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