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Genes and work stress

Everyone knows that genes might be the controlling factors that decide if you will get a serious disease, become overweight, or even be more prone to heart disease. A recent study, however, shows that genes might also be the reason why some people get more stressed out at work than others.

New research by Dr. Timothy Judge, a management professor at University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business, led to the conclusion that work stress, job satisfaction and the health problems that are caused by high stress have their basis in a person’s genes.

Dr. Judge studied almost 600 pairs of twins who were both raised together and raised apart. He was able to show that being raised in identical environments ultimately had little effect on a person’s personality, stress and health. Instead, it seems that shared genes are about four times as important in determining these traits as a shared environment.

For an example of this, consider two employees who work at the same business doing the same job. These two individuals could report very different levels of stress. This does not means that one employee actually has a more stressful job than the other one, however. According to Dr. Judge, the study showed strong genetic factors tied to work stress and how a person deals with that stress. In other words, stress levels seem to have more to do with the individual than with their environment.

For individuals, this study means that changing jobs or switching companies might not always help to alleviate work-related stress. A better solution is to examine your own predispositions toward stress and consider how you can better handle situations. Of course, Dr. Judge was quick to point out that not all people who feel stress at work have only themselves to blame.

The study, "Genetic Influences on Core Self-Evaluations, Job Satisfaction, Work Stress, and Employee Health: A Behavioral Genetics Mediated Model," was recently published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

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