The Most Stressful Jobs In America Have Real-Life Health Consequences

Every job is stressful in its own way. But in 2019, CareerCast ranked the most stressful jobs in America. Some of these careers put employees in life-threatening situations, but not all. In either case, employees can face serious health consequences from chronic stress.

In some careers, employees are more likely to become depressed and resort to addiction than other workers. Other jobs put people at risk of gastrointestinal and heart diseases. You might be surprised by how common some of these careers are. Here are the most stressful jobs in the U.S. and their real-life consequences.

Therapists Struggle With Their Own Stress, Too

A psychotherapist sits in her chair in her office.
Leonardo Cendamo/Getty Images
Leonardo Cendamo/Getty Images

Although it is a therapist’s job to help people handle stress, they also need to manage their own. A 2018 study in Frontiers of Psychology found that burnout is especially widespread among psychologists. They might also feel pressured to manage stress to treat their patients more effectively.

Burnout makes it even more difficult for therapists to handle their jobs. Psychologist Jeffrey S. Nevid told Prevention that anxiety causes therapists to be less productive, which creates even more anxiety. This could quickly compound into chronic stress and lead to a variety of health issues.

Physicians Suffer From An 80-Hour Work Week

A nurse writes down notes from a doctor's appointment.
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Physicians diagnose people with illness and injury, which is more stressful than some think. When they see sick patients, they are constantly at risk of getting sick themselves. Many are also overworked; one-fourth of all physicians work for 80 hours a week!

According to The American Journal of Medicine, physicians are 41% more likely to develop heart disease from chronic stress. Many also suffer from burnout. Of the physicians that had burnout, 56% reported long working hours, insufficient pay, and a lack of respect from their colleagues.

Lawyers Are More Likely To Become Depressed And Addicted

Celebrity lawyer Marty Singer stands at the end of a conference room table.
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Paul Harris/Getty Images

Lawyers also have a job that places peoples’ livelihoods on the line. Many of their cases last more than a year, and clients will blame them if they fail. According to the American Bar Association, lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to become depressed and 2.5 times more likely to exhibit addictive behaviors.

Nicole Sodoma, a managing principal attorney at Sodoma Law, told ABA Journal that many lawyers go into debt after law school. Not only do lawyers face stress in the workplace, but they also struggle with finances at home.

The Many Chronic Diseases Of Taxi Drivers

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Taxi drivers are in a vulnerable position. They have to handle rude customers, work-related injuries, and traffic. Many drivers also work between 60 and 70 hours every week. It’s no wonder why they’re stressed. In 2014, a study of Los Angeles taxi drivers found that more stress resulted in more injuries and health troubles.

For taxi drivers, chronic stress can result in many different health complications. According to a 2013 Indian study, 83% of drivers experienced gastrointestinal issues, musculoskeletal disorders, or depression. Imagine sitting all day in stressful situations; it’s not healthy.

Steelworkers Often Get Heart Disease From The Excess Heat

A steelworker work near fire in a steel mill.
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China Photos/Getty Images

Steelworkers work with a variety of materials, from iron to rubber to glass. They often work with heat to mold the materials into specific shapes. According to the Journal of Occupational Medicine, many steelworkers have lower mortality because of their job strain.

Steelworkers have a higher rate of heart disease than most other employees. When people are exposed to extreme heat, the heart works to cool down the body. That, combined with a high-stress career, can lead to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

Firefighters’ Stress Can Destroy Their Relationships

A firefighter walks by a house with a fire in the background.
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Sam Mooy/Getty Images

At any moment, a firefighter might have to leave their station and enter a life-threatening situation. Many firefighters get injured or lose friends on the job. These traumatizing moments give firefighters an extreme amount of stress, according to a 2018 survey in PeerJ.

Chronic stress can have a severe impact on firefighters’ relationships. In 2015, researchers found that firefighters have a higher divorce rate than most Americans. At least 11.8% of firefighters get divorced, compared to the average 9.4% of the U.S. population. And we haven’t even discussed potential burn injuries yet.

Why Paramedics Often Get Injured

A paramedic sanitizes an ambulance.
ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images
ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

Working in an ambulance combines the unpredictability of the medical field with a loud, moving vehicle. Paramedics not only worry about their patients but also about the potential injury while on the job. It’s no wonder why paramedics have high stress.

In 2012, scientists from the National Association of EMS Physicians looked at the long-term consequences of being a paramedic. According to them, paramedics have higher levels of anxiety and blood pressure than the average worker. They also receive more injuries on the job than in most fields. Over time, these can develop into heart problems or dementia.

Why Many Police Officers Develop Chronic Diseases

Chinese police block off a road in the Philippines.
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NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP via Getty Images

Police officers have a demanding career, and many are underpaid. Their job ranges from hours of paperwork to violent occurrences that can happen at any moment. Plus, many officers work odd hours. Some work at night and others have to remain on-call.

Researchers from the University of Buffalo reported that stressed police officers have a wide variety of health risks. Many can develop heart disease, sleeplessness, mental illnesses, and cancer. According to the data, police officers are more likely to become obese, get metabolic syndrome, or develop brain cancer than most employees.

The Injuries, Anxiety, And Depression Of Construction Workers

A construction worker sits on a large beam while taking a break.
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Joe Woolhead/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images

Construction is a dangerous business. Because of the demanding physical labor and risky tools, they are frequently at risk of injury. According to research in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, construction workers often face anxiety and depression from their work-related injury.

Another study in 2012 found that depression and chronic pain were closely related. Forty percent of construction workers had chronic back pain, and 45% had depression. In the past three months, 75% of workers had experienced musculoskeletal pain. Over time, these workers could get arthritis, scoliosis, or musculoskeletal disorders.

Ironically, Anesthesiologists Can Lose Sleep Over Stress

A anesthesiologist prepares a patient by giving them anesthesia.
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Anesthesiologists are the doctors who administer anesthesia before and during procedures. It might sound simple, but it isn’t. Anesthesiologists continuously have to monitor a person’s vital signs to avoid any feelings of pain and fatal side effects, such as hypothermia.

In 2017, a survey of Indian anesthesiologists determined that many experience high stress, especially after their ten to 12-hour shifts. An earlier study in 2012 explored the health effects of their stress. Anesthesiologists are more likely to get less sleep and engage in addictive behaviors than other employees.

Many Airline Pilots Have Become Depressed

Two airline pilots talk to each other in the cockpit.
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Seth Wenig-Pool/Getty Images

Piloting is a highly-demanded job. Despite this, 43% of airline pilots would not recommend the job to younger adults. In 2020, a survey by GOOSE Recruitment and FlightGlobal found that this was because of work stress.

The constant stress results in performance issues. According to NASA, stressed pilots tend to struggle with memory and decision-making. Another study in Environmental Health reported more devastating mental health effects. Of the hundreds of pilots interviewed, 12.6% reported feeling depressed, and 4.1% admitted to feeling suicidal within the past two weeks.

Stress Can Cause Financial Advisors To Lash Out

Financial advisors speak to a customer from behind their desk.
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People visit financial advisors because they’re struggling with money, but the advisors might be even more stressed out. In 2019, the Financial Planning Association found that 71% of financial advisors experience moderate or high stress. Plus, 44% said that they were feeling more stressed than they did five years ago.

Many financial advisors are still dealing with a post-recession America’s stocks, which only adds to their burdens. Their stress negatively impacts their work. According to research by VitalSmarts, 43% of advisors tend to lash out in anger, while 47% fail to meet deadlines.

Stressed Surgeons Can Harm Patients And Themselves

A surgeon prepares a patient for surgery.
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MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP via Getty Images

Surgeons have one of the most life-or-death and unpredictable jobs in America. Patients can suddenly come in requiring surgery, and many procedures last several hours. Surgeons feel the stress of determining their patient’s life. On top of that, the average surgeon works 50 to 60 hours per week.

High stress can lead to health problems, not just for surgeons but for their patients. A study in the British Journal of Surgery found that stressed surgeons make more mistakes in the operating room. Even short-term stress resulted in 66% more errors than before.

Some Social Workers Have Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

A woman holds an orphaned baby in Cape Town.
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Michelly Rall/Getty Images

Because social workers protect vulnerable families and children, they witness a lot of depressing situations. This leads to a lot of stress. Researchers from the University of Plymouth concluded that chronic stress is rampant among social workers.

Even worse, many social workers develop unhealthy coping mechanisms. About 57% of social workers said that they used emotional eating to cope, which puts them at risk of obesity. Sixty-three percent of respondents had difficulty sleeping, and 35% turned to drinking as a coping mechanism. All of these habits can lead to diabetes, heart disease, or even cancer.

Almost Half Of All Counselors Feel Burnt Out

Three school counselors work at a long desk.
Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Although counselors are not therapists, many work with mental health to help clients establish goals and achieve them. In 2016, researchers surveyed hundreds of counselors about stress. Only 14.28% of respondents said that they felt fine. Over 45% of respondents said that they were either burning out or burnt out.

Even so, the demand for counselors has increased, especially in schools. According to the California Department of Education, schools have increased their mental health staff by 30% from 2014 to 2019. Because of the demand, counselors often develop “compassion fatigue,” which increases their students’ stress too.

Over Half Of All Compliance Officers Consider Quitting

A compliance worker is seen talking on the phone through a window.
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Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Compliance officers ensure that companies abide by government regulations. As a compliance officer, people have to be a teacher, therapist, and doctor at the same time. A study by the Health Care Compliance Association found that 58% of officers considered quitting because of the stress.

Fifty-three percent of workers said that the job left them overtired and overwhelmed. Many woke up in the middle of the night because of anxiety. If their sleeplessness continues, many could end up getting heart problems, high blood pressure, or diabetes.

Why Many Journalists Get Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Reporters film their surroundings in Turkey.
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BULENT KILIC/AFP via Getty Images

Although journalism is a highly-desired field, reporters have to learn about all of the depressing current events. Many also have tight deadlines, work long hours, and feel intense pressure. During a small survey in July 2020, 70% of journalists admitted to feeling psychologically distressed.

In 2019, a study in the Newspaper Research Journal examined how reporters reacted after Hurricane Harvey. Ninety percent exhibited symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, and 93% showed signs of depression. The poor mental health in the journalism industry is devastating.

IT Managers Deal With The Same Stressors At Home And At Work

A woman gives a customer IT advice over the phone.
Per-Anders Pettersson/Reportage by Getty Images
Per-Anders Pettersson/Reportage by Getty Images

IT, which stands for Information Technology, covers every technological aspect of a business from the internet to the coffee machine. IT Managers have to deal with lagging internet and frustrated employees, which makes their job extra stressful.

In 2015, a study in The Journal of Pharmacy and BioAllied Sciences determined that an IT manager’s stress increases as technology improves. This is called “technological stress.” Another study in 2017 found that technology disrupts the work-home balance. IT Managers have to deal with technology at home, making it difficult to distinguish between work and life stress.

Why Community Healthcare Workers Are Very Stressed

A community healthcare worker talks to a patient.
Anton Raharjo/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Anton Raharjo/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Community health workers (CHWs) have multiple jobs packed into one: helping people get healthcare, educating people, and translating medical services. The career is incredibly stressful, according to a study in the International Journal of Mental Health Systems. Employees complain of being overworked, having inadequate supplies, and struggles with customers.

One study from the Nigerian Medical Association determined that a CHW’s stress negatively impacts their job. Stressed CHWs performed less effectively at work, and many also had financial and relationship stressors at home. Over time, this chronic stress could result in mental and physical illnesses.

Bartenders Tend To Drink Like Their Customers

A bartender shakes up drinks to make cocktails.
Ian Gavan/Getty Images for Diageo
Ian Gavan/Getty Images for Diageo

Bartending might seem fun, but not when employees have to stay in a drunken atmosphere all night. Customers are more likely to yell or cause a scene when intoxicated. Many have to deal with violence, which only raises their stress. In 2017, the U.S. Department of Labor called bartending one of the country’s most stressful jobs.

In 2013, researchers surveyed hundreds of bartenders to learn how they managed stress. They found that bartenders tend to drink much more than the average person. When they drink to cope, they have more health risks, both short-term and long-term.