Killer co-workers?

Developing healthy relationships with your peers at work could save your life

Office workers often complain about bad bosses, but it turns out that having obnoxious co-workers might actually be worse. New research suggests that supportive relationships with peers in the workplace have a powerful impact on our health, affecting even how long we live. Similar support from these workers’ supervisors didn’t have the same effect.

In the new study, published in the American Psychological Association’s journal Health Psychology, a team from Tel Aviv University followed 820 adult workers over two decades, from 1988 to 2008. Drawn from some of Israel’s biggest firms in finance, public utilities and manufacturing (to name just a few sectors), the subjects worked an average of 8.8 hours a day; one-third were women and 80 per cent were married with kids.

The study’s findings were startling. Workers who felt they had strong peer social support—in other words, that their co-workers were friendly and helpful when it came to solving problems together—actually seemed to live longer than those who don’t have this kind of network. Having a supportive boss, meanwhile, didn’t have any impact on workers’ mortality. Next time co-workers are bonding over an after-hours drink, it seems that it might be wise to join them—even if it means skipping the gym.

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