Dr. Andrew Young of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at the University of Exeter and Dr. Dominic Cram from the University of Exeter are the first to show that hard work has detrimental effects on longevity and health. The researchers proved that the most industrious members of a social species of birds in which all group members share offspring care duties are the most likely to die at a young age. The study was published in the in the journal Functional Ecology on Sept. 2, 2014.
White-browed sparrow weavers are a social species of birds that live in the Kalahari Desert. The dominant male and female are the only members of the group that breed. The dominant male and female also do more work providing for young birds. The hardest working birds wee found to have lower antioxidant levels after the breeding season. The condition could lead to premature aging and other detrimental health conditions.
The researchers checked the antioxidant levels of 93 sparrow weavers before and after a long breeding season. Dominant and subordinate birds had the same levels of antioxidants before the breeding season. The dominant females exhibited lower antioxidant protection after the breeding season that could lead to oxidative stress and produce premature ageing and poor health.
The researchers draw analogies to human societies and behavior. Humans are a social culture that shares the distribution of work. The distribution of work is not even in human societies. People that work hard to get ahead and people that are the poorest work the most and the hardest. The same depletion of antioxidants may explain some of the health problems seen in developed countries. Working for social or financial advancement could produce a shorter life. The study may put an end to the fallacy that “No one ever died from hard work”, and similar nonsense.