An Unfair Workplace Can Affect Your Health, Study Suggests

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Whether you view the company where you work as a fair, just organization affects more than just your happiness in the office. According to a new study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health, it can also impact how healthy you feel. 

Researchers from the University of East Anglia in the UK and Stockholm University analyzed 5800 people surveyed as part of the Swedish Longitudinal Survey of Health (the wonderfully acronymed SLOSH), comparing their perception of “procedural justice” in the workplace to their self-reported health scores. The survey asked if decisions in their workplace were made in a way that felt "accurate, correctable, consistently applied,” and whether the opinions of people affected by decisions were included in the decision-making process.

While a survey can’t determine whether people’s office environments were actually fair or unfair, or if their health was really as good as they said it was, perceived justice was linked to feeling healthier. The survey was conducted every two years, and the researchers compared people’s responses to their own responses in prior years, finding that if procedural justice scores declined over time, so did health scores.

“People who feel fairly treated are not only more likely to be motivated at work and go the extra mile for their organization, but they are also more likely to be healthy, have an active lifestyle and feel positive,” study co-author Constanze Eib explains in a press release. However, she and her co-authors are careful to point out that these results can skew both ways: Perhaps healthy people are more likely to feel that their workplace is just.

But considering how other studies have linked perceived injustice with stress and pain, it makes sense that dealing with a terrible organization on a daily basis might take a toll on you. Which, of course, suggests that entrenched cultural injustices that play out in the office—say, that women and minorities are much less likely to get hired or promoted than white men—are probably taking as much of a toll on health as the pay gap.